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 is more than halfway through a 10-year monitoring cycle for the state’s 80 watersheds. The agency’s watershed approach involves intensively monitoring stream and lake water conditions in each watershed on a rotating basis, with the help of local partners. Approximately eight watersheds are monitored each year over a 10 year period, until all have been evaluated, and then the process begins again. Monitoring:

  • determines the overall health of the watershed’s water resources
  • identifies impaired waters and those that need protection to prevent impairments

Follow-up monitoring determines the cause(s) of any impairments, and then a restoration plan and/or protection strategy is created for the watershed. At that point, partnering agencies and watershed stakeholders — such as counties, watershed organizations, soil and water conservation districts, and citizens — can begin making improvements to reach water quality goals.

The MPCA has reached the midpoint of its first comprehensive look at water quality – and what is needed to protect and restore it –  throughout the state. Find out more about the Minnesota's waters in MPCA's Swimmable, fishable, fixable? report.

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

Minnesota's Clean Water Roadmap

In conjunction with six other state agencies, the MPCA is working 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. The Clean Water Fund Roadmap will help ensure the maximum environmental benefits are achieved with those dollars.

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.

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