The Role of Local Stakeholders in Water Resource Management: Characterization and Diffusion of Minnesota Lake Improvement Districts

Project Staff: 

Principal Investigator: Dennis Becker, Assistant Professor, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota


USGS-WRRI 104B/ CAIWQ Competitive Grants Program

Project Duration: 

March 2007 - February 2008


According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, as of 2006 there were 1,013 lakes listed as impaired waters, up from 920 in 2004. A large number are impacted by human development, recreation, and pollution leading to unsafe conditions for swimming or fishing, excessive algal blooms, and high levels of mercury transferred throughout the food chain. Despite progress since passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972, more MN lakes are contaminates than at any time in history. Because they are an integral part of community economies and lifestyle of MN citizens, alternative methods of management solutions are required that capitalize on existing planning efforts and initiatives. The development of policy tools to enable and facilitate management actions at the local level is paramount. The research seeks to assess the effectiveness of existing MN programs that empower citizens to affect water quality solutions in the places they live. IN particular, the research will assess use and diffusion of Lake Improvement Districts (LIDs), where local units of government organized to enhance water quality by securing grants and taxing landowners to support mitigation activities within a lake district. Diffusion of the LID program has been slow in MN. Only 24 have been created since 1976, compared to more than 200 in Wisconsin. The research will characterize existing LIDs including funds secured, staff resources, partnerships formed, and accomplishments relative to state priorities. We will identify barriers to diffusion and effective utilization of similar forms of stakeholder engagement in resource management to affect water quality. Finally, we will explore the role of stakeholder engagement in resource management activities focusing on how state programs can better facilitate on-the-ground accomplishments. Recommendations for incorporating stakeholder initiatives into statewide management activities and policy development will be provided. The cumulative impact of such could dramatically decrease the number of impaired waters in Minnesota.


Conference Proceedings

Steiger-Meister, K. 2009. The Drama of the Commons and its Impact on Adaptive Management: A Social Science Perspective on the Slippery Nature of Water Policy. Oral Presentation. American Water Resources Association Specialty Conference: Adaptive Management of Water Resources II, June 29 – July 1, 2009, Snowbird, UT.

Steiger-Meister, K. 2009. Minnesota’s Lake Improvement Districts. Lakes and Rivers Conference hosted by Minnesota Waters, May 6-9, 2009. Rochester, MN.

Steiger-Meister, K. 2008. When ripples become waves: Building synergy among local stakeholders to affect top-down water policy. 14th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM), June 10-14, 2008, University of Vermont in Burlington, VT.