Watershed Management Plans

Watershed Management Plans help protect surface water resources in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area. In 1982, the Legislature approved the Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act, requiring local water management authorities to prepare and implement these plans. In 1992, the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) developed Minnesota Rule Chapter 8410 to determine the plan content. This rule also requires that plans are revised every 5 to 10 years.

The local water management plan authority is required to send a notice to local government units (LGUs) of the intent to revise their existing plans, allowing these LGUs to participate in the development and review of the plan content. Notice of a Plan revision must include an invitation for all recipients to submit priority concerns they wish to see the plan address. BWSR recommends that the plan revision process begin at least 18 months prior to expiration of the existing plan

The intent of this webpage is to act as a resource for local water management authorities, offering guidance and identifying MPCA priority concerns that will be helpful in their plan development process. Although some of the recommendations are not required by regulatory authority to be included in a plan, MPCA staff will evaluate the draft plans submitted for review to verify their alignment with MPCA water quality goals and strategies.

MPCA participation in the Water Management Plan process

The MPCA goal is to respond to concerns and participate early in the plan development process. An opportunity to participate in the stakeholder process will ensure that all MPCA objectives will be incorporated in the final Water Management Plan and the WDs/WMOs will be able to work more efficiently in their Water Management Plan development process.

The following outline describes proposed MPCA roles and responsibilities for participation in the Water Management Plan development process in the Metro Area:


  • Participate on plan stakeholder and/or Advisory teams at the beginning of the process, as needed.
  • Provide data/information to WDs/WMOs as needed to develop a complete plan.
  • Provide guidance to enable WDs/WMOs to identify MPCA goals early in the process.
  • Provide guidance to WDs/WMOs so they will be able to access available data in their watershed district.


  • Assign a primary MPCA contact for each WD/WMO.
  • Attend regularly scheduled stakeholder meetings, when appropriate.


  • Review and provide comments on the final draft water management plan.
  • Assure consistent approach for all WDs/WMOs water management plan.

Watershed Management Plan development guidance

Impaired waters

A complete WMP should include:

  • Water quality goals for surface water.
  • A discussion about how the plan will enable your organization to meet state water quality standards.
  • A current list of impaired waters in the area covered by your plan.
  • A discussion of how the plan integrates MPCA priorities and schedules for addressing impaired waters.
  • Schedules for project development and identification of local participation in existing or future TMDL projects.
  • A discussion of the proposed strategy for working with MPCA staff and others to achieve shared goals, including the development of work plans for TMDLs. 


A complete plan will include a discussion of the following information, if applicable:

  • A list of the estimated number of SSTS (Small, Medium, and Large subsurface disposal systems) in the watershed including:
    • the estimated number of compliant systems and non-compliant systems and a discussion of how the estimate was developed
    • the estimated number of cluster systems and
    • the estimated number of imminent public health threat systems (example – straight pipe with inadequate treatment).
  • A description of the status of ordinance adoption by the LGU. All areas must be covered by an ordinance which regulates SSTS. List the jurisdictions in the watershed and the year that their ordinances were adopted.
  • A description of what local programs do to track and/or ensure maintenance and upgrade of non-complying systems


A complete plan will include a discussion of the following information, if applicable:

  • A description of how to address management of runoff, including establishing peak flow reduction strategies, maximum allowable runoff rates, and runoff from new developments
  • Identification of specific goals and policies that will control soil erosion and identify controls, programs, and organizations responsible for controlling soil erosion
  • Identification of stormwater water control issues within and between the communities
  • Identification of impacts from runoff and soil erosion on water quality, including impacts from development
  • Identification of untreated discharges to wetlands; impacts to wetlands, particularly those used to attenuate stormwater; and appropriate design criteria for stormwater ponds and outlets.
  • Identification of appropriate good housekeeping practices, including design criteria for stormwater outlet structures, maintenance and repair of existing structure, and street sweeping
  • Identification of management organizations responsible for stormwater management and if state stormwater requirements in this plan are as, or more restrictive than, NPDES/SDS permit requirements
  • A discussion of implementation activities, as follows:
    • include adoption of controls
    • identify responsibilities
    • include a schedule
    • describe a capital improvement program;
    • identify enforcement procedure(s) and
    • identify an administration process


A complete plan will include a discussion of the following information, if applicable:

  • Describe any wetland inventories
  • Describe wetland functional values in your jurisdiction
  • Describe how wetlands will be managed to advance watershed goals
  • Describe how the Plan is consistent with requirements of 7050
    • If a wetland comprehensive plan or local water plan is adopted as part of the plan, describe how the wetland classification and management proposals conform to the protection requirements of MN Rule 7050 and CSW NPDES/SDS permit. 
    • To ensure conformance with protection requirements of MN Rule 7050 for wetlands, the following activities are not allowed:
      • bouncing water levels to a point that could result in die-back of vegetation
      • draining, filling, excavation or inundating wetlands
      • adopting a classification system that incorporates a lower wetland class
      • using wetlands for treatment required by the permit
      • using wetlands as storm ponds without requiring a minimum of 1:1 wetland replacement mitigation
      • directly discharge untreated storm water to wetlands


A complete plan will include a discussion of the following information, if applicable:

  • Discuss all water quality monitoring data submitted to MPCA for entry into STORET. (Required for CWP/319 projects)
  • Discuss all on-going water quality monitoring efforts by the jurisdiction


A complete plan will include a discussion of the following information, if applicable:

  • Identify the expected impact of runoff from feedlots and manure spreading sites on water quality, including numbers of feedlots and animals, numbers of feedlots without pollution controls in place, and the expected number of acres receiving manure.
  • Address management of feedlot and manure application site runoff, including policies, goals, financial and technical assistance availability, education and other efforts to reduce negative impacts.
  • Identify primary feedlot contacts in other organizations and how to facilitate cooperative partnership efforts to reduce feedlot runoff as the watershed works with the county SWCD, NRCS, county environmental services office, MPCA and others.
  • Identify appropriate voluntary and required best management practices for improving water quality from feedlot and manure spreading sources
  • If implementation activities are discussed, does the discussion:
    • identify which types of implementation efforts are to be undertaken
    • identify responsibilities
    • include a schedule
    • identify the role of enforcement actions
    • identify an administration process

Low impact development

A complete plan will include a discussion of the following information, if applicable:

  • Language that restricts development in environmentally sensitive areas
  • Language that sets or preserves open space for new developments
  • Language that considers open space and higher zoning density of associated structures
  • Language that encourages conservation development and conservation easements
  • Language that requires shoreland habitat and vegetation restoration by homeowners with property adjacent to water resources
  • Language that encourages up-front development agreements that address LID / Conservation Design principles prior to the design / layout of land development projects
  • Language that calls for ordinance development / revision to manage water where it falls
  • Stormwater credits or other incentives for LID practices

Resources and contacts

Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (TCMA) watersheds

Watershed organizations should submit electronic draft and final watershed plans for MPCA review and comment to:

Brian Livingston, 651-757-2532