Water Quality

Key roles

The Metropolitan Council's approach to water quality concerns 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 includes two important principles: 1) watershed management seeks to preserve the environment, and 2) watershed management seeks to use the most cost-effective means to achieve this goal.

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

Water Supply Planning

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

The MCES reviews and comments on the watershed plans prepared by watershed management organizations as well as water management prepared by local units of government. In addition, the MCES provides 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 Metropolitan Council led a cooperative effort to develop a water-quality model of the lower 40 miles of the Minnesota River. Five agencies joined the Council as sponsors, and many local stakeholders were involved. Enhanced monitoring and special field studies were conducted during 2004-2006. The model was developed and tested using extensive data from 1988 and 2001-2006 representing a wide range of river conditions. The Lower Minnesota River Model provides a tool for facility and watershed planning, load allocation studies, and water quality assessments. For more detailed project information, Project Highlights, Project Slide Show, or Project Documents, please contact us.

Water Quality Monitoring

Water Quality Monitoring includes river, stream, and lake, wastewater treatment plan and special monitoring projects and studies.

Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS)

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

Unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, NPS comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution 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. Check out the NPS fact sheet for more information about nonpoint source pollution and what causes it. 

Major sources include:

  • Nutrients and bacteria from improperly designed, constructed, or operated septic tank systems ( map of septic tank usage in the 7 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 

Best Management Practices (BMPs)

The 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 (BMPs) for stormwater treatment. The Council has also developed a number of resources that provide guidance on the design and operation of effective nonpoint source pollution control.  

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution 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. Check out the NPS fact page for more information about nonpoint source pollution and what causes it. 

Urban Small Sites Best Management Practice Manual

The Urban Small Sites Best Management Practice (BMP) Manual provides information on tools and techniques to assist Twin Cities municipalities and WMOs in guiding development and redevelopment. The manual includes detailed information on 40 BMPs 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.

Questions?

For questions or comments, please contact Judy Sventek via email at judy.sventek@metc.state.mn.us or by phone at 651.602.1156.

For information on how to obtain a CD-ROM version of the manual, go to the Contact Us page.

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