Protecting the Environment

A person stands on a bridge over Minnehaha Creek.Clean water and a clean environment are essential to a healthy life, and we are committed to both. We monitor and analyze the water quality of the region’s lakes and rivers; partner with public, private, and nonprofit groups to improve water quality; and assist with watershed planning and management. Our environmental protection work has a direct, positive impact on public health.

Staff in bright vests staff at work on Silver Creek in Stillwater Township, Washington County, in the winter.

Monitoring chloride trends in local rivers and streams

Chloride pollution is a growing concern in Minnesota’s waterbodies. Stemming from sources such as de-icing salt, synthetic fertilizer, and household water softening products, chloride pollution is harmful to aquatic life — and once it’s in the water, it’s almost impossible to remove.

We have been monitoring chloride in regional streams and tributary rivers for more than 20 years. To help our partners better understand chloride trends — and how to address chloride pollution — we prepared short reports about 18 local rivers and streams. Each of these “partner memos” includes a brief watershed description, a summary of key findings related to chloride, and recommendations for alleviating chloride pollution.

Feedback about the partner memos has been overwhelmingly positive. “Thank you for this great information!” said Laura Jester, Bassett Creek Watershed Management Commission. “We will certainly discuss and use this information as we move forward with developing actions and strategies for addressing chlorides.”

Metro Plant lab worker tests water samples.

Ensuring regulatory compliance

Our Laboratory Services team plays a central role in ensuring that we maintain a strong compliance record. In 2021, the team analyzed 58,804 water and wastewater samples.

Breakdown of analytical support in 2021:

  • 60% to ensure our wastewater treatment plants met their permit and process control requirements
  • 17% to support external partners in their environmental monitoring of lakes, rivers, and streams
  • 15% to support waterbody monitoring within MCES’s environmental monitoring network
  • 7% to support industrial pretreatment requirements
  • 1-2% testing for other internal Environmental Services groups
Two people canoeing on Cedar Lake in Minneapolis.

Shaping the next Priority Waters List

Since 1982, we have developed and maintained a Priority Lakes List to help prioritize investments for monitoring, protecting, and restoring water quality in the region’s lakes. In 2021, we engaged stakeholders to expand the list to include rivers and streams and to update the criteria for prioritizing waterbodies on the list. We developed a website to gather feedback on the proposed criteria, which include drinking water protection, recreation and tourism, healthy habitat, tranquil connection, equity, industry and utility, and science and education. The new Priority Waters list will be published in 2022 and will be used to help guide development of the Met Council’s 2050 Water Resources Policy Plan.