For Cleaner Water
       & Fewer Floods  

Active Projects

Zumbro Watershed Plan

Funding Provided By: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Project Duration: April 2011-June 2013

Summary: Currently, seventeen stream reaches in the Zumbro River watershed are listed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as impaired for excess turbidity, or too much soil in the water. A turbidity Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study was completed in 2011 and is awaiting approval by the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2007, local partners, led by the ZWP, completed a two-year planning process that culminated in a watershed management plan for the Zumbro River. The plan provides detailed watershed history and background, discussion of key water quality issues of concern, proposed goals to achieve a planning-derived vision for the watershed, and a work plan to accomplish the goals. The watershed plan was completed in 2007 but is in need of revision to reflect the current status of the watershed.

The purpose of this project is to complete the turbidity TMDL implementation plan, as required by the MPCA, and revise the Zumbro River Watershed Management Plan to ensure it continues to reflect local needs, incorporates new information, and develops more effective linkages with related local, state and federal government programs.

Project Documents:

Prioritizing Critical Restoration and Protection Sites in the Zumbro River Watershed

Funding Provided By: Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund
Project Duration: July 2011-July 2013

Summary: This project will identify and prioritize areas in the Zumbro River Watershed that are critical for restoring and protecting water quality. Currently, conservation practices in the Zumbro Watershed are implemented opportunistically because a coordinated, watershed-wide approach for identifying critical sources of nonpoint source pollution, prioritizing sites and planning implementation projects is absent. Studies suggest that small areas of the landscape contribute disproportionately to nonpoint source pollution, so implementation of conservation projects should focus on those critical areas to maximize water quality benefits and ensure the most efficient use of resources. To arrive at our goal, we will 1) analyze Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data and other Geographic Information System (GIS) data to identify and rank critical areas of soil erosion and surface runoff for the 910,337-acre watershed and 2) develop and use an in-field assessment technique to further evaluate the top 50 source locations in the Zumbro Watershed. Outcomes of this project include determination of the top 50 critical sites, and identification of appropriate conservation practices and potential funding sources for those projects. In addition, Zumbro Watershed Partnership partners will be trained in the protocols developed so they can apply this process to the remainder of critical areas identified through the project and monitor changing conditions to update the list of priority projects as necessary. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is a collaborating agency on this project and will help disseminate results to other Minnesota watersheds that may want to conduct similar projects.

Surface Water Monitoring

Funding Provided By: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Project Duration: April 2012-June 2014

Summary: The ZWP has received a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to monitor a variety of chemical and physical parameters at 13 stream sites across the Zumbro. Sites will be sampled 9 times in 2012 and 6 times in 2013. The purpose it to give the Pollution Control Agency a picture of the health of the Zumbro River Watershed and results will be used to direct restoration and protection efforts in the watershed. Volunteers are needed for this project. If you are interested in helping collect water samples, take field measurements and visually assess the stream at the schedule described above please contact Lisa at 507-226-6787.

“Slow the Flow” Educational Campaign

Funding Currently Being Sought From: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and local businesses

Summary: The “Slow the Flow” Campaign is an educational initiative to engage residents, local governments, land owners, and businesses to take action to slow down and reduce the amount of water running into the Zumbro River. Increased water flow leads to riverbank and gully erosion, river turbidity and sedimentation, increased runoff pollution, and an increased danger of flooding. This initiative uses both short- and long-term strategies to encourage city residents to use more rain barrels and rain gardens, encourage rural landowners to install more farm ponds and terrace systems, and to encourage local units of government to create more stormwater holding ponds and other systems to reduce the speed and volume of runoff entering the river.

Funding has been secured from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to install 90 permanent signs in the watershed that make drivers and recreational visitors aware that they are crossing the Zumbro River and that they are within the Zumbro Watershed. Funding will also cover a professional survey to assess baseline knowledge and develop a plan to increase resident awareness about the main reasons for increased river flow volumes, erosion, sedimentation and flooding in the Zumbro River Watershed. Finally, two landowner-led councils will be established in priority subwatersheds to discuss and decide on best practices to implement in the subwatershed.

Completed Projects

Zumbro & Friends

Funding Provided By: Minnesota State Legislature

Project Duration: 2012-2013

Flood Mitigation Study

Zumbro River Watershed, Minnesota

Final Report


Executive Summary


Flood mitigation of the Zumbro River was studied by students and faculty of Minnesota State University, Mankato, in response to effects of the September 2010 flood event.  A topographic surface model of the watershed was built using State of Minnesota remote sensing data obtained for four counties for approximately 150 river miles.  A hydraulic corridor was defined for the river by cutting river cross sections at 2765 locations.  Bridges and other river crossings were field measured and river geometry verified.  Rainfall events and storm water runoff were incorporated into the hydraulic model as inflow, developed from a review of Doppler radar observations, probabilistic characterization of precipitation, and a probabilistic river flow database.


Anecdotal measurements of flood levels and timings were recorded via public outreach and commentary as well as public records.  A river flow model was created using the widely-accepted US Army Corps of Engineers software HEC-RAS, which allows prediction of flood levels depending upon rainfall and runoff conditions.  However, calibration of the model was not accomplished at this time due to limitations of time and budget after receiving the public input.


Six public meetings were used to explore flood mitigation strategies and specific measures of: (1) infiltration and impoundments; (2) walls and levee structures; (3) do nothing and accept the risk; and (4) relocation and repurposing land.


The river flow model is made freely available to both government agencies and non-governmental organizations as well as the Zumbro watershed citizenry to help the people of the Zumbro watershed consider responses to past flood events and build protection from future flood events.

Final Report, Zumbro Watershed Flood Mitigation Study (pdf)

Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix B2
Appendix C
Appendix D
Appendix E
Appendix F (Not Available At This Time)


Zumbro & Friends Project Early Reports

Summary: Southeastern Minnesota flooding is costing local communities, the state and federal government millions of dollars. These floods have wrought devastation upon the lives of the people in these rural communities who are our neighbors and a vital part of the fabric of Minnesota. At the same time,the floods have been a reset event, which has provided the opportunity to go forward with a new start.  The Zumbro Watershed can't be looked upon as an unmanaged problem, but as a tremendous resource to many communities within its boundaries.

Zumbro & Friends was formed in response to the devastating September 2010 Zumbro River flooding.  It is a true grassroots organization that is comprised of local citizens that are partnering with three established non-profit organizations-- the Zumbro Watershed Partnership, Coming Alongside, and Renewing the Countryside--- and the academic community to form an Executive Steering Committee. The common goal for this work is the development of a comprehensive Watershed Flood Control and Mitigation Plan.

Zumbro & Friends seeks to foster relationships between the faith community, private sector, local government agencies, regulating and supporting agencies, legislators and the citizens who live in the Zumbro Watershed. By working proactively, across community boundaries and across sectors, Zumbro & Friends hopes to develop a comprehensive, coordinated, multi-county development plan that can be applied to other parts of the state.

Project Documents:

Nitrogen and Bacteria Monitoring of the Zumbro River Watershed

Funding Provided By: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Project Duration: April 2009 - June 2011

Summary: The purpose of this project was to monitor Nitrate-N and E. coli in 12 stream reaches of the Zumbro River for which little information was known. ZWP worked with staff from the Wabasha SWCD to collect water samples from May-October in 2009 and 2010. Data has been uploaded to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency database for use in listing impaired waters for the Zumbro River.

Read the Final Grant Report.

Zumbro River Riparian Landowner Outreach and Forum

Funding Provided By: Minnesota Waters
Project Duraction: March 2010 - September 2010

Summary: A recent survey of 600 riparian landowners in Southeastern Minnesota showed that only 43% are aware of state shoreland requirements designed to protect water quality and only 56% know about opportunities for conservation programs on their land. Soil and water resource agencies in the watershed were constrained in requesting shoreland protection grant funding in 2009 because there were too few shovel-ready projects in the watershed. This project: (1) created a database of rural shoreland owners within the Watershed; (2) provided an informational mailing, which included an invitation to attend a landowners forum; (3) five landowner forums across the watershed, which provided a “one-stop” connection to staff from resource agencies and conservation organizations; and (4) development of a list of property owners that were interested in having resource agency and conservation organization staff follow-up to assist them in enrolling riparian lands in conservation programs.

Read the Final Grant Report.

Working Lands for Wildlife and Water Quality: Leveraging Conservation Dollars in the Zumbro River Watershed

Funding Provided By: Conservation Partnership Initiative Grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Project Duration: 2005-2007

Summary: With a $200,000 cash grant and $200,000 of in-kind support from local partners, ZWP was set to launch planning activities and foster partnership agreements to carry out water quality and wildlife habitat work in the watershed of the Zumbro River Watershed. The purpose of the project was to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices on agricultural working lands and perennial cover practices on highly sensitive areas in the Zumbro River Watershed and to improve freshwater aquatic habitat. Specific objectives of the project included: (1) development of a 5-year watershed management plan, (2) data collection and technical advisory, (3) sub-watershed demonstration projects, (4) watershed outreach and education, and (5) agreements and evaluation.

Read the Final Grant Report

Contact Us:

Zumbro Watershed Partnership, Inc.
1485 Industrial Drive NW, Room 102
Rochester, MN 55901

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