The waterbodies of the Twin Cities region have been prioritized based on scores calculated in seven quantifiable categories. Two additional categories were identified, but they were not scored due to a lack of data. For detailed information about the scoring approach in each category, visit the Technical Details section.
Drinking water protection
The likelihood that a waterbody may impact the quality of a regional drinking water source if degraded.
Access to clean drinking water is critically important for all communities. Specific surface waterbodies in the region are direct sources of drinking water or reserved as future drinking water sources. Other surface waterbodies that are not direct sources of drinking water still have regional importance for drinking water protection because of their connection to surface and groundwater sources.
An estimate of a waterbody’s accessibility to communities that may generally have more limited access to benefits waterbodies can provide.
Equity is one of five desired outcomes identified in the Metropolitan Council's long-range policy plans for the region: "Equity connects all residents to opportunity and creates viable housing and transportation options for people of all races, ethnicities, incomes and abilities so that all communities share the opportunities and challenges of growth and change. For our region to reach its full economic potential, all of our residents must be able to access opportunity that leads to success, prosperity, and a high quality of life.” The abundant waterbodies in the Twin Cities area provide a variety of benefits to residents. Having the opportunity to access these benefits is important to achieve a more equitable outcome for the region. Waterbodies advance equitable outcomes if they are accessible by alternative modes of transit, provide natural space benefits, and are accessible by communities that may have historically had more limited access to waterbodies.
The likelihood that a waterbody provides good habitat for native wildlife and vegetation to live and thrive.
Healthy habitats provide a wide range of benefits. They provide food, water, and shelter for native wildlife such as fish, plants, and birds. Other benefits of healthy habitat often go unrecognized, such as flood control, air and water purification, and temperature regulation. Healthy habitats also tend to be more resistant to the effects of extreme weather, which are becoming more common in Minnesota due to our changing climate.
Industry and utility
The degree to which a waterbody provides or supports utility or economic benefits for the region.
Waterbodies can be used for utility, commercial, or industrial benefits. For example, large rivers can be used to transport goods on barges and dams can be used to produce hydroelectric power. Some industries use the water from waterbodies for a variety of reasons, such as equipment cooling or irrigation, and wastewater treatment facilities typically return their cleaned water back into local waterways.
Recreation and tourism
The ability of a waterbody to support visitors and different types of recreation on the water or on shore, such as swimming, boating, fishing, or walking along a trail.
Known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," Minnesota has access to many water-related recreational activities. Recreation is one of the more common ways a person interacts directly with a waterbody. Recreational opportunities go hand-in-hand with tourism. Many of the waterbodies in the Twin Cities are popular destinations for residents and tourist alike, such as Minnehaha Falls, Lake Minnetonka, and Como Lake.
Science and education
The extent to which a waterbody supports use for scientific studies or environmental education.
Waterbodies can be used to grow our understanding of the natural world. Scientists actively monitor waterbodies in our region to better understand how they function. Waterbodies can also be used as educational tools to help teach concepts about the environment.
An estimate of a waterbody’s potential to provide a tranquil outdoor experience, free from distractions of human activity.
Natural landscapes allow us to connect with the environment, which can have positive effects on our physical and mental well-being. Waterbodies with limited disturbances provide the opportunity to experience these tranquil and mindful connections with nature.
These two additional categories have been identified as important benefits. They were not used for scoring due to a lack of quantitative and comprehensive datasets. Visit the Considerations when using the list section for more information about the data limitations in these categories.
Culture and history
An estimate of a waterbody’s cultural and historical value for people of the region.
Culture and history help shape who we are and can influence our identity and values, having a significant impact on our experiences. As the metropolitan center of Minnesota, it's important to recognize that our waterbodies have significant cultural and historical value. Some waterbodies have noteworthy contributions to the history of this area. All waterbodies have value to the cultures of the people who live or once lived here.
The ability of a waterbody to provide food.
Some foods can be harvested directly from the environment, which is a use known as food provisioning. Wild rice harvesting is an example of food provisioning in Minnesota. Additionally, some communities in the region practice subsistence fishing, where they fish as a significant source of food.