For Cleaner Water
       & Fewer Floods  


Here you can see what Zumbro Watershed Partnership is doing for "Cleaner Water and Fewer Floods" in Southeastern Minnesota.

Active Projects

Completed Projects

Active Projects


Funded Provided By: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)

Zumbro WRAPS


Funded Provided By: Legislative Citizen Committee on Minnesota Resources (MN Lottery Funds)

Project Duration: July 2015-June 2018

Summary: This grant provides funding to create six "Educational Recreation Sites" at city, county, and state-owned parks and public lands. These sites will use signs and demonstration projects to educate the public about how human land use activity leads to erosion, pollution, and flooding in the Zumbro River Watershed.

Last summer, the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) recommended funding our "Educational Recreation Sites project for $300,000. If approved by the Minnesota Legislature in  May of 2015, this project will allow us to create six “Educational Recreation” sites in the Zumbro Watershed. These sites will include signs and conservation demonstration projects that educate the public about the pollution, runoff, and flooding challenges that face the residents of the Zumbro Watershed, and how people can work for “cleaner water and fewer floods” both at home and in their communities.

Using non-grant funding, project partners form Zumbro Watershed Partnership and the University of Minnesota have already begun working with residents and government officials from the City of Mantorville to plan for projects at their Riverside Park, on the banks of the Middle Fork of the Zumbro River.

Water Pollution Load Monitoring

Funded Provided By: a contract with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)

Project Duration: July 2012-June 2018

Completed Projects


Funded Provided By: SELCO Community Collaboration Grant

Project Duration: July 2014-June2015

Summary: This grant provides funding to create a new "History of the Zumbro Watershed" program based on research recently completed as part of the Zumbro Watershed History Project. The project also funds the presentation of 12 public river and watershed programs at libraries within the Zumbro Watershed.

A $6,400 Community Collaboration Grant from Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO) will fund 12 ZWP high-quality history and science programs at watershed libraries over the next year. These programs will educate the public about the wonders of the Zumbro River Valley.
This project also includes the creation of one new “Zumbro River History” program, using information and pictures from the Zumbro Watershed History Project, a joint project of the History Center of Olmsted County and the Zumbro Watershed Partnership. The history pro-gram will bring history to life for area residents, showing them what the river, landscape, and settlements looked like 100 years ago, and how things have changed over the last 100 years. We’ll tell the story of the river through historic photos, newspaper accounts, maps, diaries, and video interviews of long-time residents.

Wildlife Brochure PDF Download

History Brochure PDF Download 1

History Brochure PDF Download 2

“Slow the Flow” Educational Campaign

June 2012-July 2014


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 flo

w leads to riverbank and gully erosion, river turbidity and sedimentation, increased runoff pollution, and an increase

d 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.

Results: ZWP, county partners, and vendors installed 126 bridge signs on county highways and city roads in Dodge, Goodhue, and Olmsted Counties and the City of Rochester, and 12 watershed education signs in parks in Hammond, Zumbro Falls, Zumbrota, Oxbow Park (Olmsted County), and Rochester.  in the watershed. Download the .kmz file below to see where signs are located on Google Earth. If you don't have Google Earth on your computer, download it here for free:

KMZ Google Earth File with Sign Locations: ZWP Bridge and Education Signs Final 7-18-14.kmz

Map of bridge and education sign locations: ZWP Bridge and Education Signs.jpg

One of two Watershed Education Signs                                                                                  One  example of a Bridge Sign in Olmsted County

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 2014

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.

Update 1/22/13:

Finding Priority Erosion Sites in the Zumbro Watershed


Everyone knows that excessive sediment (dirt) in the Zumbro River is leading to problems like shallow lakes, reduced fish populations, and mucky water. But since this sediment could be washing into the river from almost any of the 900,000 acres that make up the watershed, this has been a hard problem to get a handle on, until now.


The Identifying Priority Erosion Sites (IPES) project, funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and managed by the Zumbro Watershed Partnership will provide the tools that local Soil and Water Conservation Districts will need to identify and prioritize erosion sites in their counties. Barr Engineering and University of Minnesota’s Dr. David Mulla are implementing the technical parts of the project using high-resolution GIS mapping data to identify which parts of the watershed (all the land that drains to the Zumbro River) that could have the biggest erosion problems.


“Past studies in other watersheds have shown that up to 80% of the sediment in the region could be eroding from as little as 10-20% of the landscape,” said ZWP Executive Director Lawrence Svien. “By targeting our limited staff and funding resources on these erosion ‘hot spots’ we’ll see the best return on our conservation investments.”


On Thursday, Dylan Timm from the University of Minnesota and Greg Wilson from Barr Engineering presented the project at the ZWP Partners Advisory Committee Meeting, a meeting of county, state, and city conservation and water professionals at the Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center in Rochester.


According to Wilson, the project is using high-resolution mapping data to identify places in the watershed where we would expect to see high levels of erosion, based on land slope and water flow. So far, this process identified hundreds of locations that could be erosion problems in the watershed.


In February, Barr Engineering will hold a training for city, county, and state water professionals in the region to teach them how to use the tool that they have developed to identify and prioritize possible erosion sites in their county or city. Then these Soil and Water Conservation Districts will have a list of site they can focus on to reduce erosion and sediment in the Zumbro River.


When asked what prevention measures people could use to reduce erosion, Wilson was clear.


“It’s all about vegetative (green plant) stability,” said Wilson. “If you have an area without any plant cover, or an area without a buffer strip next to the river, you’re at a much higher risk of erosion.”


Wilson pointed out that degraded forestland (without any green plant undergrowth), bare soil crop fields, eroded river banks, and gullies are all places where erosion can take hold. And that erosion will lead to sedimentation and murky brown water in the Zumbro River.


For more information about this and other ways that the Zumbro Watershed Partnership is work for “Cleaner Water and Fewer Floods” in southeast Minnesota, visit


Download Presentation Slides from Dylan Timm, University of Minnesota

Part One

Part Two

Update 9/18/14

The project wrapped up on July 31, 2014 with the publishing of the a final report and operations manual that local Soil and Water Conservation District staff can use to address erosion problems in their counties. You can download those documents below. The maps and lists of priority erosion sites in the Zumbro Watershed have been forwarded to county
Soil and Water Conservation Districts so they can work with landowners to address erosion problems.

Digital Terrain Analysis Manual

Operations Manual


Critical Restoration and Protection Sites Final Report

Critical Restoration and Protection Sites Final Map

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.

The Zumbro Watershed History Project  

March 2013-May 2014

Funding: The Minnesota Historical Society, with funding from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.

Summary: The first phase of this project is to gather as much historical, scientific, and natural resource information as we can to describe how the Zumbro Watershed and the Zumbro River have changed over time. This project is a partnership between the Zumbro Watershed Partnership and the History Center of Olmsted County (HCOC). Staff from ZWP are collecting the scientific, agricultural, and natural resource data on the watershed while staff and contractors working for the HCOC are collecting all of the historical and photographic information they can find on the Zumbro and land use in the watershed.

ZWP Staff will also be interviewing at least 10 long-time residents of the area to collect videotaped oral histories on the watershed.

Download a copy of the Zumbro Watershed History Bibliography Here: Zumbro Watershed History Bibliography

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:


Final Interim Watershed Plan Update - June 2013

The Cost of Fast Water

Funding Provided By: The University of Minnesota Regional Sustainability Partnership
Project Duration: January 2013-October 2013


Summary: The purpose of this project was to collect Olmsted County  city and county financial data to evaluate the local government (taxpayer) costs of our current "fast water" drainage system in southeastern Minnesota. Those cost include, but are not limited to costs for erosion, sedimentation, blown-out road culverts, road damage, and flood damage. The goal is to quantify the costs of "doing nothing" to reduce the speed and volume of water flows in the Zumbro Watershed. Once collected, ZWP would use the data to demonstrate the benefits of investing in "Slow the Flow" practices to slow the flow of water in Olmsted County.


In the end, these data proved difficult to quantify, given how cities and counties account for expenditures. But interviews with Olmsted County and City of Rochester staff allowed researcher Megan Hoye insight into what the Rochester and Olmsted County are already doing to "Slow the Flow" and what future projects could help address issues in the county. 


Read the Final Report here.

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:

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

Office Address: Education Coordinator Kevin Strauss
   Olmsted County Soil and Water Conservation District Office
2122 Campus Drive SE, Suite 200
Rochester, MN 55904