What we're doing to improve water quality

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency monitors environmental quality, offers technical and financial assistance, and enforces environmental regulations. The agency finds and cleans up spills or leaks that can affect our health and environment. Staff develop statewide policy, and support environmental education.

As a regulatory agency, the MPCA's job is to limit pollution caused by businesses, organizations, and individuals in order to protect human health and the environment. However, we are also focused on pollution prevention as the most cost-effective method of environmental protection.

Man kneels on dock putting together water monitoring equipment.Watershed management

The MPCA completed its first 10-year monitoring cycle for the state’s 80 watersheds in 2018 and is working on the next cycle. The agency’s watershed approach in the second cycle involves intensively monitoring a reduced set of stream and lake water conditions in each watershed to track progress, and adding sites needed by local water managers.  Monitoring:

  • Determines the overall health of the watershed’s water resources
  • Identifies impaired waters and those that need protection to prevent impairments
  • Shows changes and trends in bodies of water over time
  • Measure progress toward water quality goals
  • Provides data for removing waters from the impaired waters list

Follow-up monitoring determines the cause(s) of impairments, and then restoration and protection strategies are chosen for the watershed. Partnering agencies and watershed stakeholders — such as counties, watershed organizations, soil and water conservation districts, and citizens — use all of this information to develop local water plans and make improvements to reach water quality goals.

To see the results of the MPCA’s monitoring in your region, go the agency’s watershed pages.

Minnesota's Clean Water Fund goals

In conjunction with six other state agencies, the MPCA worked to identify the outcomes we expect to achieve over the 25-year life of the Clean Water Fund. The fund was established by the 2008 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and is enabling many projects to improve water quality.  Progress toward meeting the identified outcomes is described in the latest Clean Water Fund Performance Report.

Teenage boy looks at an exhibit at the Eco ExperienceEducation and outreach

MPCA staff work to educate the public, local governments, businesses, and other organizations on a variety of pollution prevention issues, such as:

Click on the "Living Green" tab on the MPCA homepage to find many ways you can help protect water quality.


Permits are another tool the MPCA uses to protect the environment. Permits limit the pollution emitted by some businesses and industries. A permit is a regulatory tool that sets specific goals for specific activities — they set goals for the prevention, control, or cleanup of pollution; limit releases of pollutants; direct construction or operation of a facility; and control storage, collecting, transporting, and processing of waste. The MPCA's water monitoring data is critical to providing reasonable and accurate permits.

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