logo for the environmental and natural resources trust fund

Many Chapter 103E drainage systems in Minnesota were designed and constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The original drainage system records were created on various hard copy materials that typically have deteriorated and are difficult to use. In recent decades, county and watershed district drainage authorities have been scanning, naming and otherwise organizing past drainage system records into electronic formats for preservation and much better usability. In recent years, this has included database use.

The stakeholder Drainage Work Group, drainage authorities and others have been proponents of drainage records modernization. In fiscal year 2008, BWSR received a general fund appropriation to produce the first Drainage Records Modernization Guidelines, September 2008. BWSR received appropriations in fiscal years 2009 and 2011 to cost-share with Chapter 103E drainage authorities for drainage records modernization.

In 2014, an Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) grant through the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) enabled BWSR to contract for: 

  1. development of a Chapter 103E Drainage Records GIS Database Template with standards;
  2. update of the Drainage Records Modernization Guidelines (October 2016); and
  3. development of a Statewide GIS Database for Chapter 103E drainage system hydrographic data.

All of these drainage records modernization components are available through this webpage and linked on the Minnesota Geospatial Commons webpage of the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo). The process is as follows:

  • A GIS Database Template Request Form is used to gain access to the Drainage Records GIS Database Template.
  • The form includes a user agreement and must be submitted to, and verified by, BWSR.
  • A zip file is then sent to the requester that includes GIS Database Template folders and user instructions.
  • A Drainage Records Modernization User Webinar, 12-19-16, provides additional information.

Chapter 103E drainage authorities, including their staff and consultants who use the Drainage Records GIS Database Template, are required to publish drainage system hydrographic data to MnGeo by February 1 each year. The zip file includes associated instructions. A separate drainage authority dataset is created and maintained for the Statewide GIS Database on the MnGeo, Geospatial Commons, Public Drainage Systems webpage. Chapter 103E drainage system hydrographic data is quite valuable for water planning and modeling.

An ENRTF grant to BWSR in fiscal year 2018 enabled additional cost-sharing with drainage authorities for drainage records modernization. This includes required use of the three components listed above.

Grants provided to twelve 103E public drainage authorities to advance local drainage records preservation and use for enhanced system management and provide hydrographic data in the statewide GIS Database.  All grantees set up an account with Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo) and uploaded public drainage system hydrography data to the Minnesota Geospatial Commons website.

This link provides one place to find all of the individual datasets that use the template:

It lets people find the GIS data from which maps could be made, but there are no ready-made maps.



Tom Gile
Resource Conservation Section Manager
Dave Weirens
Assistant Director for Programs & Policy