Drainage Treatment Wetland

Multipurpose Drainage Management

From a Single Primary Purpose…
Much of Minnesota’s farmland was originally too wet to farm. Surface ditches and subsurface tile have been installed since the time of statehood to drain agricultural lands; remove stagnant water, insects and disease; and to facilitate transportation and commerce. Minnesota has approximately 19,150 miles of drainage ditches and extensive untallied miles of subsurface tile installed and maintained under what currently is Minn. Stat. Chapter 103E Drainage law. Much of this drainage occurred during the late 1800’s, early and middle 1900’s. These systems are owned by the benefited property owners and administered by a county, joint county or watershed district drainage authority. Private drainage ditches and patterned tile are also extensive in the primary agricultural lands of Minnesota.

…To Multiple Purposes
Drainage remains very important for agricultural production on much of Minnesota’s cropland. However, drainage impacts hydrology, stream stability, water quality and aquatic habitat. Because so much of Minnesota’s agricultural land includes drainage systems, multipurpose drainage management is critical for addressing altered hydrology, erosion and sedimentation, water quality, and habitat. Multipurpose Drainage Management of fields and drainage infrastructure can provide adequate drainage capacity, while reducing downstream peak flows and flooding, reducing erosion and sedimentation, improving water quality and improving aquatic habitat. These are important considerations for drainage projects in Section of 103E.015 of Minnesota drainage law. A number of resources are available to help identify, design and implement best management practices for Multipurpose Drainage Management.

Side Inlet


Drainage Topic Listsers

If you are interested in drainage topics, here are listserv based resources to stay up to date. Two email listserves have been designed for drainage information:

  • Drainage policy topics. Policy related updates to the Minnesota Public Drainage Manual; stakeholder Drainage Work Group recommendations and reports; legislative activity related to drainage; etc.
  • Technical topics related to drainage. Drainage related research publications and articles, Drainage Management Team publications, etc.

Follow link here to sign up for drainage topic updates.

Technical Information and Resources

Drainage Management Structure



Wetland Determination

DNR - Public Drainage Systems

Other Sites Featuring Drainage Management

Red River Retention Authority (RRRA) - Basin Technical Science Advisory Committee


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