Messages from the Council Chair

An award-winning partnership to save water

November 2023

By Charlie Zelle

A child holding a hose with water streaming out.Clean water for future generations. That’s the vision that drives the Metropolitan Council’s work toward water sustainability, whether we’re treating wastewater, monitoring water quality on lakes, rivers, and streams, or working with communities to protect drinking water supplies.

We’re in the middle of the third cycle of our Water Efficiency Grant Program, a very successful partnership we’ve had with local governments since 2015. The Minnesota Legislature allocates Clean Water Legacy dollars to fund the program. The goal is to help residents, businesses, and local governments reduce water use by replacing water-using devices with high-efficiency alternatives.

Participating communities have saved an estimated 40 million gallons of water in just the first year of the current program, savings that will be ongoing and build as more high-efficiency devices are installed.

Local governments have the freedom to design and tailor this program to meet local needs and match local capacity. Some cities offer rebates for irrigation audits only. Others offer rebates for a variety of Water Sense- and Energy Star-certified items: toilets, dishwashers, clothes washing machines, irrigation controllers, and spray sprinkler bodies.

The number of participating cities has more than doubled since our first grant round in 2015. A recent survey of the cities in the program showed that they appreciate several features, including both the well-defined rules of the program and its flexibility. We also asked about how we could improve and will incorporate their suggestions where possible in the next grant round. We will be publishing grant guidelines and putting out a call for applications in the first quarter of 2024.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also likes what we’ve achieved with this partnership; they have given us two WaterSense awards since 2015 for our work to promote water-efficient devices and water savings.

Partnerships are critical to our mission at the Metropolitan Council, and nowhere is this truer than in the water arena. Water transcends municipal boundaries, whether it is on the surface or underground. This is what the Met Council was founded for – to plan for and address issues that no one community can solve alone. We look forward to our continuing work with our local government partners to ensure clean water for future generations.

Charlie Zelle is Chair of the Metropolitan Council.