Water Resources Policy Plan

2050 update – planning for our region's waters

The Metropolitan Council is updating the current Water Resources Policy Plan for the waters of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. It outlines water supply, water resources, and wastewater policies to align local and regional water priorities, set guidelines and expectations about our regional wastewater system, and help the region plan for future water needs.

Water is foundational to the quality of life for Twin Cities residents — we play on the shores and in the water, we take in solace and connection with water, we draw our drinking waters from rivers and aquifers, and water supports the region's economy. Taking a regional, integrated approach to water is vital to ensure efficient and effective water resources management. The Water Resources Policy Plan is the Met Council's guiding document to implement that approach.

Over time, new, regional water challenges and opportunities arise. The region needs to look ahead to address new water concerns and create policy to safeguard sustainable water resources for the future.

This policy plan is legislatively mandated to be updated every 10 years.

The planning cycle

Every planning cycle begins with information from the U.S. Census, where we learn how our population has changed over the last decade. This allows us to forecast population growth into the future. With that information, Council staff begins to engage with water professionals; water-focused nonprofit organizations; federal, state, and local government staff; and residents to hear about regional water values and concerns. The Council proposes policies to address water issues, gathers input, and adopts policies that advances efforts to secure clean waters for future generations.

Graphic of the regional planning cycle. Steps include census results, system plans, and implementation.

Timeline and milestones

This plan is created through policy research, stakeholder engagement, and the drafting and adoption of water policy and actions aimed at implementing the adopted policy. From now through 2025, we will research, draft, and gather feedback for the plan. The research phase will end in early 2023, followed by our first round of engagement. This will give us a chance to share and listen to our residents, along with city, watershed, state, and tribal partners, about the pressing regional water issues that should be integrated into this plan. In mid-2023 through 2024, we will begin to draft policy, continue to engage our Council members, partner organizations, and residents with the work, and finalize the 2050 plan policies, with the Met Council ideally adopting the plan by March 2025.

Research for the Water Resources Policy Plan

In this planning cycle for the Water Resources Policy Plan, we started our work with research to make sure the 2050 water policies are responsive to current and future challenges. The goals are to:

  • Develop and share our current understanding of issues.
  • Identify current policy connections or gaps.
  • Propose draft policies and strategy recommendations to ensure sustainable water resources.

Environmental Services staff are writing seven research papers investigating current and future water concerns and recommendations for the metro region. These papers will be rolling out over the next few months. The first paper is linked below.

  1. Protecting our region's water quality
  2. Water reuse can preserve future water resources.

Three core principles guided the research paper topics

One Water, integrated water management

One Water, integrated water management

The metro area is water-rich, and that water holds immense value. Integrated water management, also known as "One Water," addresses water as it moves from water supply, through wastewater systems, and into surface waters. The ultimate goal of integrated water management is sustainable, high-quality water in the region.

Use existing structures

Use existing structures

The region plans for water resources and operates the region's wastewater system in partnership with local water and wastewater utilities, watershed management organizations, and regional, county, state, and federal agencies. Collaboration and cooperation between these groups is necessary to protect our water for future generations.

Metric-based policies

Metric-based policies

It is hard to quantify policy success without accountability. We will provide policy options with associated metrics and measurable outcomes where possible, to demonstrate the effectiveness of our water policies and actions.

These papers are a first step in defining the region’s water concerns for the 2050 plan update. While not all the draft recommendations will make it into the final Water Resources Policy Plan, they will spark conversations with stakeholders that help work toward sustainable water resources. The 2050 Water Resources Policy Plan will outline local planning requirements and the Met Council’s commitments for water supply, water resources, wastewater planning, and the operation of the regional wastewater treatment system.

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Comprehensive regional planning

The Water Resources Policy Plan is one of four systems that the Met Council plans for as a part of the regional planning process. We also plan for our regional parks system and the transportation system, which includes the airport system information. We also create policies for land use, water resources, and housing. Find more information about planning.