Water Resources Center

The Water Resources Center is affiliated with the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and University of Minnesota Extension.

Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework

The Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework—A plan for clean, abundant water for today and generations to come

(Jan. 2011) The University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center has authored a first-ever, comprehensive report designed to protect and preserve Minnesota's lakes, rivers and groundwater for the 21st century and beyond. Commissioned by the 2009 Minnesota Legislature, the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework is intended to serve as a legislative roadmap with timelines and benchmarks for future investments in water resources, including the estimated $86 million a year dedicated for the protection of water as a result of Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Act. Read more.

Lead author and center co-director Deb Swackhamer presented the report to the Minnesota Legislature on Jan. 5. In this audio clip, Swackhamer says Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Act serves as a starting point for preserving the state’s water supply.

Appendix F. Background Papers (.pdf files)

Appendix G. Best Practices


In fall of 2008, Minnesotans passed The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Act, an amendment to the state’s constitution that created a three-eighths of a percent sales tax to fund, among other things, the protection and preservation of Minnesota’s freshwater. The amendment has the potential to raise more than $275 million a year – of which roughly one third—about $85 million a year—will go toward protecting and preserving Minnesota’s surface and ground water.

In spring 2009, the legislature took the first step in investing that money, appropriating $750,000 to the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center to create a comprehensive, 25-year framework for the sustainable management of Minnesota’s water resources. The framework is intended to serve as a roadmap—with clear signposts on how and when to spend the money and on what initiatives—based on scientific research, expert opinion, and input from citizens around the state. The plan, titled “Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework,” will be presented for recommendation to the legislature in January of 2011.

Why a Framework?

Currently, Minnesota lacks a holistic approach to its water management. The state’s drinking water, water used for industrial and agricultural purposes, and lake and river water are monitored and managed by independent agencies. “As a result, we don’t have a good understanding of how much water we’re using relative to how much is being replenished,” says Deborah Swackhamer, co-director of the Water Resources Center and Framework project leader.

Swackhamer, a environmental chemistry professor with the university’s School of Public Health who also holds the Humphrey Institute’s Charles M. Denny Jr. Chair in Science, Technology and Public Policy, was the lead on Minnesota Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan, the 400-page comprehensive plan for environmental sustainability produced by the University, Bonestroo, and CR planning for the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) with funding from the Environmental Trust Fund, and presented to the Minnesota Legislature in July 2008.

WRC-framework-DebSwackhamer-imgWant to hear an overview of the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework Project? Listen to this presentation by Program Manager Deb Swackhamer.

Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework Project Overview (.pdf)

Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework Executive Summary

Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework
Project Organizational Chart (.pdf)
organizational chart pic

Process and Governance

The Headwaters Council, an oversight team made up of experts on the topic of water resources from around the region, is providing guidance to the Framework’s process and policy recommendations.

Headwaters Council Member Biographies (.pdf)

Guiding Principles for the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework (.pdf)

Experts from state agencies including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health, the Environmental Quality Board, the Board of Soil and Water Resources and representatives from higher education, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations have been appointed to work teams. These teams are identifying the water issues to be considered, and determining gaps in knowledge, management and policy. A Synthesis Team will integrate the technical team white papers, formulate the recommendations and "build" the Framework.

Project Team Members

Project Team Materials

Commitment to Public Engagement

Because water policy involves values as well as science, the Water Resources Center is engaging all Minnesotans through surveys, workshops and on-site events to find out how Minnesotans want to use their water and how they feel about a range of water-related issues — from fishing and boating to agricultural practices. A Citizen and Stakeholder Advisory Committee is guiding this process.


Summer/Fall 2009

  • Naming of Headwaters Council, Citizens and Stakeholder Advisory Committee, and work teams.
  • Water Resource Center booth at the Minnesota State Fair solicits public opinion on a range of water issues

Fall/Winter 2009–2010

  • Work teams develop recommendations and engage citizens and stakeholders through communications campaigns and public forums

Spring/Fall 2010

  • Work team recommendations are compiled and synthesized

Fall/Winter 2010—2011

  • Final report is prepared and reviewed before being presented to the Minnesota State Legislature on January 15, 2011.

Key Contacts and Partner Organizations

Deborah L. Swackhamer, Project Leader - dswack@umn.edu

Jean Coleman, Project Coordinator - jcoleman@crplanning.com

Barbara Liukkonen, Citizen Engagement Coordinator - liukk001@umn.edu

Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Minnesota Department of Health

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Minnesota Public Facilities Authority

The Metropolitan Council

The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board


The Water Resources Center wants your thoughts on how to preserve and protect Minnesota’s waters for all future generations. Contact Us at wrc@umn.edu


Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan. 2008. University of Minnesota

Water Is Life: Protecting a Critical Resource for Future Generations. 2008. Freshwater Society (.pdf)

Minnesota Water Marks. 2000. Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (.pdf)

Managing for Water Sustainability. 2008. Minnesota Environmental Quality Board and MN Department of Natural Resources (.pdf)

Minnesota’s Water Supply. 2000. MN Department of Natural Resources (.pdf)

To the Source: Moving Minnesota's Water Governance Upstream. 2009. Citizens League (.pdf)

Long-Term Protection of the State’s Surface Water and Groundwater Resources. 2010. MN Department of Natural Resources (.pdf)

Minnesota's Constitutionally Dedicated Funding Site >>
This site summarizes the Clean Water, Land and Legacy funds, as well as the Environment and Natural Resources Fund (administered by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources or LCCMR)