Minnesota Watershed History

A Brief History of Minnesota Watersheds

1953: Federal Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act

This legislation sought to foster coordination between federal, state, and local authorities to protect, improve, and develop water and land resources in watersheds of up to 250,000 acres. The Act provided financial assistance to local agencies responsible for the management of secondary watersheds. These agencies had the power of eminent domain and the ability to levy for support of their activities.

1955: Watershed District Formation

The Minnesota Legislature authorized the creation of watersheds in 1955 through the Minnesota Watershed Act. The goal of this statute was to establish a government entity whose boundaries would be based on the flow of water rather than political boundaries. For example, all water in the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District drains to the Mississippi River. This act is now codified in Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103D. View statute 103 D: Watershed Districts

1982: Metro Surface Water Management Act

In 1982 the Legislature directed watershed districts in the seven-county metro area to develop watershed management plans. Cities in the metro area also must have water management plans.  In 1992 the Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR) created requirements for management plan content, which were amended in 2015. View the most recent RWMWD Management Plan.

1991: Wetland Conservation Act

The Wetlands Conservation Act (WCA), passed in 1991, states that wetlands must not be drained or filled unless replaced by restoring or creating wetlands of at least equal public value. Watersheds are one of several government entities responsible for implementing the Wetland Conservation Act.

2006: Clean Water Legacy Act

This legislation accelerated efforts to address and improve impaired waters in the state by increasing water monitoring and assessment. It also established a funding and policy framework for systematic water quality monitoring.

2008: Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment

Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment(CWLA) to the state constitution. Part of this amendment established the Clean Water Fund, whose goal is to fund the protection and restoration of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. RWMWD projects that have received funding from this program show the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment logo on their project page.

Additional Information

A helpful video on Minnesota and Federal Legislation that pertains to the Watershed Districts can be found on the Board of Soil and Water Resources page.