Upper Mississippi River basin

Minnesota has the honor of sheltering the Headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River. From its start at Itasca State Park, the Mississippi River flows south 2,350 miles, to the Gulf of Mexico. The Upper Mississippi River Basin covers about 20,100 square miles, and stretches from the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca to Lock and Dam Number 2 near Hastings. As the river runs this course, it drains into a mixture of forest, prairie, agriculture, and urban land areas.

What is basin planning and management?

PDF icon Basin planning and management

Canoers on a riverBasin planning and management is a watershed-based approach for managing Minnesota's water resources that is focused around the state's 10 major river basins. Key elements of this approach include integration of existing programs, watershed-based permitting, identification of specific goals and priorities, and greater involvement by partners and the public in management of Minnesota's water resources.

The final product of the Upper Mississippi River Basin planning process will be the Upper Mississippi River Basin Plan, also known as the Water Quality Plan. It will document the water management activities for the Upper Mississippi River Basin for a five-year period.

The basin plan will be built from local water plans and is intended to enhance implementation of locally identified goals, objectives and strategies.

Additionally, the basin plan can be used for obtaining resources. Local units of government can use it to obtain technical assistance and grants; state and federal agencies may use the plan in allocating staffing and financial resources to the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

Basin plan development process

The MPCA has been gradually shifting its water quality programs to basin planning since the early 1990s. The planning involves citizens, local governments, industries and other agencies in developing shared goals for the water resources in the Upper Mississippi River Basin and for determining how and where program resources should be directed.

Before the basin planning could begin, a resource document was needed. The Basin Information Document (BID) was printed in July 2000 and is being used during the development of the Basin Plan. The document is available as one large file or in individual sections below to reduce downloading time. The file size for each section is noted in parentheses following the title.

You may view the entire document:

Or view individual sections:

Upper Mississippi River Basin Water Quality Plan, Headwaters to the Rum River - Anoka

The final product of the Upper Mississippi River Basin, Headwaters to the Rum River - Anoka planning process is the recently completed Upper Mississippi River Basin Water Quality Plan, Headwaters to the Rum River - Anoka.

The draft plan may be viewed in its entirety below:

Or view individual sections:

Written comments to the plan were accepted through February 26, 2004.

Impaired waters, TMDLs and water quality

A water body is “impaired” if it does not meet one or more of the federal Clean Water Act’s water-quality standards. The Clean Water Act requires the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to identify and restore impaired waters.

The primary tool for addressing impaired waters is a pollution reduction plan called a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. A TMDL is the maximum amount of a pollutant a water body can receive without violating water quality standards. The TMDL process identifies all sources of the pollutant and allocates necessary reductions among the various sources. These reduction strategies form the basis of an implementation plan. Implementation begins once the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves a completed TMDL.

Several water quality studies are underway in the Upper Mississippi River Basin and throughout the state. See the links below for additional information.

For more information about the statewide impaired waters program, including a list of project contacts, visit the MPCA Impaired Waters and Total Maximum Daily Loads in Minnesota's Waterways webpage.

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