In 1955, the Minnesota Legislature authorized the creation of watersheds through the Watershed Act. The intent of the Act was to develop water management policies on a watershed basis, because water does not follow political boundaries.


Watershed districts conserve the natural resources of the state by doing:

  • Land use planning,
  • Flood control projects, and
  • Other conservation projects by using sound scientific principles for the protection of public health and natural resources.


Watershed districts have been given broad authorities, including the authority to:

  • Adopt rules with the power of law to regulate, conserve, and control the use of water resources within the district.
  • Contract with units of government and private and public corporations to carry out water resource management projects.
  • Hire staff and contract with consultants.
  • Assess properties for benefits received and levy taxes to finance district administration.
  • Accept grant funds, both public and private, and encumber debt.
  • Acquire property needed for projects.
  • Acquire, construct, and operate drainage systems, dams, dikes, reservoirs, and water supply systems.
  • Enter upon lands within and without the district to make surveys and conduct investigations.

Organizational Structure


Each watershed district is governed by a 3-9 member board of managers appointed by the county boards of commissioners with land in the watershed district. Manager responsibilities are to provide:

  • Organizational support
  • Planning, programming and budgeting
  • Financial management
  • Reporting and evaluation
  • Leadership
  • Regulation


Each watershed district is also required to have a citizen advisory committee to provide input to the managers on projects and activities.


Many watershed districts have paid, full-time staff; others rely on contract employees, primarily for engineering and legal services. BWSR maintains a Watershed District Directory that contains contact information for board and staff (if applicable), as well as, the district address and telephone number.


This map (pdf) shows the location of watershed districts throughout the state.


Melissa King
Agency Tribal Liaison