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. We bring 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.

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, we provide guidance and technical assistance to counties, cities, and towns on issues relating to water resources. Check out the water resources planning page for guidance on watershed planning as well as other useful watershed information and resources.

Water quality monitoring

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

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 wastewater treatment plants, nonpoint-source pollution comes from many different 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 
  • Excess fertilizers and pesticides from farms and lawns that flow through the soils into the groundwater, or flow over land 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
  • Chloride pollution from household water softening, synthetic fertilizer, and de-icing salt
  • Other organic matter such as leaves and grass clippings

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 several 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 goal of the manual is to support the principals of accoummidating growth while preserving the environment. 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.

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


For questions or comments, please contact Judy Sventek at [email protected] or 651-602-1156.