In 1982, the Minnesota Legislature approved the Metropolitan Area Surface Water Management Act  which requires local units of government in the seven-county Metro Area to prepare and implement comprehensive surface water management plans through membership in a Watershed Management Organization (WMO). Watershed Management Organizations are based on watershed boundaries.


WMOs are required in the seven county metro area in order to develop and implement watershed management plans.


Joint Powers Watershed Management Organizations have the authority to:

  • Jointly or cooperatively manage or plan for the management of surface water in a watershed;
  • Prepare, adopt, and implement a plan for the watershed;
  • Review and approve local water management plans;
  • Regulate the use and development of land in the watershed;
  • Accept the transfer of drainage systems in the watershed, to repair, improve, and maintain the transferred drainage systems, and to construct all new drainage systems and improvements of existing drainage systems in the watershed;
  • Adopt a budget and decide on the total amount necessary to be raised from ad valorem tax levies to meet the budget;
  • Certify its budget with the auditor of each county having territory within the joint powers watershed management organization;
  • fFle approved assessment statements with each affected county; and
  • Other powers necessary to exercise the authority, including the power to enter into contracts for the performance of functions with governmental units or persons.

Organizational Structure

WMOs can be organized in three ways:

  • As a joint powers agreement between the cities and townships within the watershed;
  • As a watershed district (a special unit of local government operating under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103B, and concurrently operating under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103D);
  • As a function of county government, usually administered by the county planning department.


WMOs are governed by a board appointed by the member municipalities and townships.


Each WMO is required to have citizen and technical advisory committees to provide input to the managers on projects and activities.


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


There are two maps available:

  • Simple map showing WMOs, WDs and county boundaries
  • Detailed map that include the boundaries in the simple map plus city/township boundaries.