restored wetland with woods in background
Over the years, Minnesota has reinforced natural resources values through development of public waters and wetland conservation laws, conservation programs, and comprehensive water planning and implementation at the local and state levels.

The Minnesota Public Drainage Manual (MPDM) was first written and published in 1991 by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), in collaboration with an advisory committee and lead writers. The MPDM was updated in 2016 via contract by BWSR, in coordination with a large stakeholder project advisory committee. The MPDM is a detailed reference document about Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 103E Drainage for drainage authorities, their advisors (attorneys, engineers, county auditors, watershed district secretaries, viewers, drainage inspectors), and others involved with state drainage law. It is important to recognize that the MPDM provides guidance, but is not rule or law.

The MPDM includes detailed explanation and guidance about the numerous sections and subdivisions of Chapter 103E, including process, procedures and pertinent case law references. The MPDM also includes a Public Drainage System Best Management Practices chapter, as well as templates and forms by local government units that are involved in the administration of Chapter 103E drainage systems. 

Chapter 1: Introduction and Definitions

Section 1.A-E Introduction (pdf)

Definitions (pdf)

Chapter 2: Administrative and Legal Issues

Note that some interim updates have been made to Section 2.III to recognize changes in statute; these changes are highlighted. All updates to the MPDM will be reviewed by the Drainage Work Group before they are finalized.

Section 2.I.A-D: Administration and legal considerations (pdf)

Section 2.II.A-H: Administration and legal issues - General petition requirements (pdf)

Section 2.III.A-N: Types of Proceedings (pdf)

Section 2.IV.A-I: Preliminary Hearing (pdf)

Section 2.V.A-F: Final Hearing (pdf)

Section 2.VI.A-E: Construction of Drainage Project (pdf)

Section 2.VII.A-D: Appeals and Other Litigation (pdf)

Section 2.VIII.A-D: Funding Collection and Payment of Drainage System Costs (pdf)

Chapter 2 Templates

2.III Templates

2.IV Templates

2.V Templates

2.VI Templates

2.VIII Templates

Chapter 3: Engineering and Environmental Considerations

Section 3.I A-B: Introduction

Section 3.II A-F: Specific Environmental Considerations

Section 3.III A-F: Preliminary Survey and Engineer's Preliminary Report

Section 3.IV A-D: Detailed Survey and Engineer's Final Report

Section 3.V A-D: Adequacy of Outlet

Section 3.VI A-D: New Drainage Systems Improvements, Laterals and Other Modifications

Section 3.VII A-D: Repair and Maintenance of Drainage Systems

Section 3.VIII A-B: Redetermination of Benefits

Chapter 3 Appendices

Appendix 1 - Checklist for M.S. 103E.015 Criteria (pdf)

Appendix 2 - External Sources of Funding (pdf)

Appendix 3 - Suggested Items In A Concept Plan Feasibility Study (docx)

Appendix 4 - Links to Regulatory Agencies Related to Public Drainage (docx)

Appendix 5 - Van Schilfgaarde Equation and Parameters (docx)

Appendix 6 - Checklist for Drainage Project Planning, Preliminary Survey, Preliminary Report Guidelines (pdf)

Appendix 7 - Does Your Project Require a Mandatory Environmental Review (pdf)

Appendix 8 - Key Questions for Considering Water Quality Impacts (docx)

Appendix 9 - Minnesota Water Quality Standards (docx)

Appendix 10 - Table of Structures Hydraulic Results (excel)

Appendix 11 - Rock Chutes Design Guidelines (pdf)

Appendix 11 - Rock Chutes Design Spreadsheet (excel)

Appendix 12 - Drainage Law, Buffer Law, and Public Drainage Ditch Buffer Strips (BWSR Drainage Work Group) (pdf)

Appendix 13 - Watershed Planning (docx)

Appendix 14 - Engineer's Report (docx)

Chapter 4: Viewing and Appraising

Section 4.I-VII Viewing and Appraising (pdf)

Chapter 4 Templates

4.III Templates

4.VI Templates

4.VII Templates

Chapter 5: Best Management Practices

Section 5.1 A-F: Public Drainage Systems BMPs

BMP Table

Example Forms from Local Governments

The forms in this section were provided by County governments, drainage authorities, watershed districts, and other local governments and consultants as examples of typical reports, petitions, and process diagrams. These forms will be added to or updated as conditions and needs change. If users of the Manual would like to submit their own examples, please send them to Tom Gile (see below).

Permits, Petitions and Requests

Repair Petition 

Beaver Control Request Form

BMP Maintenance Request

Drainage System Repair Request Form 

Utility Permit

Hearing Proceedings

Suggested Script for Preliminary Hearing Proceedings

Suggested Script for Final Hearing Proceedings


County Drainage Inspector's Report

Drainage Inspection Report

Checklists and Other Forms

Beaver Control Contractor Form

Ditch Management Checklist (Improvement)

Ditch Repair Call Log

Hold Harmless Agreement for County Ditch Maintenance/Repair

MN Agricultural Drainage Repair and Improvement Process (flowchart)


Below are links to presentations about Chapter 103E and the MPDM that were used for outreach to key users of the MPDM after it was updated in 2016.

  • Overview of Drainage Law Changes and Other Considerations since 1991 - Presentation: Al Kean (BWSR) Engineers (pdf) | Broad Users (pdf)
  • Chapter 2. Administrative and Legal Issues – Chapter structure and content, types of drainage law proceedings and processes, the players, involvement of engineers, recent drainage law updates, pertinent case law. - Presentation: John Kolb (RN), Kale Van Bruggen (RN) Engineers (pdf) | Broad Users (pdf)
  • Chapter 3. Engineering and Environmental Considerations – Chapter structure and content, key roles and responsibilities of engineers, Section 103E.015 considerations and coordination, environmental regulation, public waters, adequacy of the outlet, engineer’s reports, advisory reviews, and discussion of key design considerations, coordination, and common situations. - Presentations: Chris Otterness (HEI), Nathan Kestner (DNR) Engineers (pdf) | Broad Users Part 1 (pdf), Broad Users Part 2 (pdf)
  • Chapter 4. Viewing and Appraising – Chapter structure and content, key topics pertinent to the work of viewers and drainage engineers. - Presentation: John Kolb (RN), Kale Van Bruggen (RN) Engineers (pdf) | Broad Users (pdf)
  • Chapter 5. Public Drainage System BMPs – Discussion of BMPs and how they intersect with drainage system design, repair, and Chapter 103E.015 considerations. - Presentation: Erik Jones (HEI) Broad Users (pdf)

Drainage System Acquisition of Ditch Buffer Strips and Alternative Practices (pdf) – Overview of existing authorities in Drainage Law and the Buffer Law. - Presentation: Al Kean (BWSR) at Broad Users Workshops


Tom Gile
Resource Conservation Section Manager