Water Program

Glass of water rests on a branch over a stream.

As we walk along its banks, it may be difficult to recognize how polluted our beautiful river is. But our entire Twin Cities stretch fails to meet federal water quality standards.

Pollutants reach our river in many ways. Fertilizer and soil leak from farm fields into ditches and streams that can connect to the river. Rain carries decomposing leaves, oil and trash from our yards and streets through storm drains to the river. And warm winter days bring excess road and sidewalk salt (a.k.a. chloride) to the river as snow melts.

FMR's Water Program works with policymakers, researchers, farmers, fellow nonprofits and everyday metro residents (River Guardians) to address these and many other sources of pollution and protect the river's natural resources. (To see what we're currently working on, check out our blog.)

Reduce agricultural pollution

Today, too much sediment and pollutants from fertilizer are making their way from farm fields to the Mississippi River. From here to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, they choke out fish and other aquatic life and contaminate drinking water.

Much of this is due to the dominance of corn and soybeans — crops that leave much of Minnesota's rural landscape bare most of the year — along with farming incentives that don't always prioritize water health. That's why FMR's Water Program advocates for research and market development for innovative crops that keep the river cleaner and benefit farmers. 

Protect drinking water 

FMR believes everyone deserves clean drinking water. About 1.1 million Minnesotans rely on the river as their drinking water source, which is why FMR works to reduce pollution from agricultural, stormwater, wastewater and other sources of river contamination.

While our geographic focus is the metro Mississippi, we are proud to work with partners from across the state to address drinking water contamination in agricultural areas. By piloting innovative clean-water farming systems in the most vulnerable areas, we can protect drinking water for Minnesotans and for millions of downstream neighbors. 

River-friendly policy 

To preserve Minnesotans' access to clean water, FMR's Water Program works with policymakers, researchers, state agencies, fellow nonprofits and everyday Minnesotans (a.k.a. River Guardians) to shape legislative and administrative policy to protect our waters.

FMR's Water Program spearheaded a legislative ban on triclosan, agency improvements to the Groundwater Protection Rule, an increase to the Safe Drinking Water Fee and full funding for the Forever Green Initiative

We also fight to defend the integrity of our state's bedrock environmental programs, such as the voter-approved Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, and block rollbacks to existing environmental policies. 

Our approach 

We believe in partnership and community engagement. That's why we're committed to working with diverse organizations to build consensus on priority issues. 

Through the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, we lead the "Water Cluster" — a collaborative group of water organizations that work together throughout the state. Through an emerging "Forever Green Partnership"  we're building a robust coalition — of scientists, agribusinesses, industry groups and others — to support Minnesota's transition to agricultural systems that will benefit farmers and protect our waters. And through our role in the Mississippi River Network, we partner with organizations from across the nation to better protect our beloved river.

We also partner with FMR's Land Conservation, River Corridor and Stewardship programs to protect and enhance the health of our water through a wide variety of programs, from stream health monitoring to hosting educational happy hours. 

See our Water Program blog or contact Water Program Director Trevor Russell to learn more about current and ongoing projects and initiatives: trussell@fmr.org.