Mississippi River - Twin Cities

Watershed at a Glance

The Mississippi River - Twin Cities watershed is 656,990 acres and lies almost entirely in the North Central Hardwoods Forest ecoregion in the Mississippi River Basin. The watershed contains 1,320 stream miles and 380 lakes. More than 1.8 million people live in this watershed, which contains portions of Hennepin, Anoka, Ramsey, Washington, Dakota, Carver, and Sherburne counties, 99 cities, and 14 watershed management organizations (WMOs).

Hydrologic Unit Code:07010206
Intensive monitoring start year:2010
Major lakesMajor rivers and streams
Mississippi, Rice Creek


The Mississippi provides a home for more than 400 different species of wildlife and plays a vital role in the upper Mississippi River valley. The river is also home to more than 100 different species of freshwater fish, which allows for some of the best fishing around, and is a major drinking water supply for the Twin Cities.

Of the impaired waters conventional pollutant listings about 70% are for nutrient-impaired lakes. The main factors affecting water quality are stormwater management, nutrient management on farmland and residential/commercial areas, sediment and erosion control, protection of shoreland/riparian areas, and invasive species (e.g., carp and curly-leaf pondweed). These land uses and other factors have contributed to the introduction of large amounts of phosphorus, sediment, and bacteria to surface waters and increased nutrient, contaminant, and sedimentation loading from stormwater runoff from development and other non-point sources.

    What's being done

    The MPCA, along with its partners, are working to restore and protect the surface waters within this watershed through the implementation of best management practices and other actions. The 10-year watershed cycle for the Mississippi River-Twin Cities watershed began in 2010. 

    • Data collected will inform and supplement Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) studies and restoration plans.
    • More than 20 TMDL projects — ranging in scope from single waterbody to entire WMO — are currently ongoing within the watershed. 

    Monitoring and assessment reports and data

    Strategy development plans

    Implementation plans

    What is a watershed?

    Illustration showing contour of land directing flow of water

    Learn the basics of a watershed.

    Chris Zadak, MPCA project manager


    Twin Cities Metropolitan Area watersheds

    There are 33 watershed districts (WD) and watershed management organizations (WMO) in the Twin Cities Metro Area. These metro watersheds are in 8 major (8-digit) watersheds: the Rum River, Lower St. Croix, Mississippi River (Twin Cities), Mississippi River (Lake Pepin), Minnesota River (Shakopee), South Fork Crow River, North Fork Crow River, and Cannon River watersheds. These WDs/WMOs are formed and regulated by MN Rules Chapter 8410.

    A number of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Studies and Implementation Plans have already been completed or are underway for impaired waters in metro watersheds. Moving forward TMDL studies will be done in conjunction with watershed restoration and protection strategies (WRAPS) reports, which will contain the needed implementation strategy elements. Metro WRAPS will follow the timing and guidance of the watershed approach, but note that these will be completed at the metro WD/WMO scale.

    MPCA staff also review metro watershed management plans that are developed by watershed districts and watershed management organizations.


    A list of MPCA staff contacts by metro watershed is available on the Twin Cities Metro watersheds page.