Water Quality

Partnerships with a watershed focus

The Metropolitan Council's approach to water quality relies on a watershed focus to control pollution from point (specific) and nonpoint (diffuse) sources, bringing together agencies and organizations in partnerships for collaborative planning and implementation.

Watersheds offer the best opportunities for dealing comprehensively with water quality issues, with a strong emphasis on management of nonpoint pollution sources. Watershed management seeks to:

  • Preserve the environment
  • Use the most cost-effective means to achieve this goal

Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) is involved in water resource and watershed management in several key roles.

Water supply planning

We conduct both short-term and long-term planning for existing and expected water use and supply, current water demand data, projected water demand, regional ground water modeling studies, and information on source water protection.

Watershed planning

We review and comment on the watershed plans prepared by watershed management organizations and water management plans prepared by local units of government. In addition, the we provide guidance and technical assistance to counties, cities, and towns on issues relating to water resources. Check out the watershed planning page for guidance on watershed planning as well as other useful watershed information and resources.

Lower Minnesota River Model

The Met Council led a cooperative effort to develop a water-quality model of the lower 40 miles of the Minnesota River. Five agencies joined us as sponsors, and many local stakeholders were involved. Together we conducted enhanced monitoring and special field studies during 2004-2006. We developed and tested the model using extensive data from 1988 and 2001-2006, representing a wide range of river conditions. The Lower Minnesota River Model is a tool for facility and watershed planning, load allocation studies, and water quality assessments. For more detailed project information such as project highlights, slide show or documents, contact us.

Water quality monitoring

Our water quality monitoring program includes rivers, streams, lakes, and wastewater treatment plants, as well as special monitoring projects and studies.

Nonpoint-source pollution

Nonpoint-source pollution affects the water quality of our streams, rivers, and lakes, and ultimately our ability to use those resources for fishing, swimming, and boating, or as sources of drinking water.

Unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, nonpoint-source pollution comes from many diffuse sources. It is primarily caused by runoff from rainfall or snowmelt that picks up and carries natural and human-made pollutants and deposits them into lakes, rivers, and wetlands. Major sources include:

  • Nutrients and bacteria from improperly designed, constructed, or operated septic tank systems (map of septic tank usage in the seven-county area)
  • Excess fertilizers and pesticides from farms and lawns that flow through the soils into the groundwater, or flow overland during heavy rains
  • Soils and debris that come from improperly managed construction sites, eroding farmland and stream channels
  • Nutrients, oil, asbestos, heavy metals, leaves and de-icing chemicals from road and street surfaces
  • Animal wastes from feedlots and uncontrolled urban animals
  • Pollutants deposited by wind and rainfall
  • Other organic matter such as leaves and grass clippings

Check out the nonpoint-source pollution fact sheet (PDF) for more information.

Best management practices

The Met Council engages in a continuous program of research and study concerning the control and prevention of water pollution. This research includes performance studies of various best management practices for stormwater treatment. The Met Council has also developed a number of resources that provide guidance on the design and operation of effective nonpoint-source pollution control.

Urban Small Sites Best Management Practice Manual

The Urban Small Sites Best Management Practice Manual provides information on tools and techniques to assist Twin Cities area municipalities and watershed management organizations in guiding development and redevelopment. The manual includes detailed information on 40 best practices that are aimed at managing stormwater pollution for small urban sites in a cold-climate setting. The goal of the manual is to support the principles of accommodating growth while preserving the environment.

For information on how to obtain a CD-ROM version of the manual, contact us.

Download a zipped version of the cd-rom (130 MB).


Judy Sventek