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Process for restoring and protecting water quality

Along with the Watershed Approach, the MPCA developed a process to identify and address threats to water quality in each of these major watersheds. This process is called WRAPS or the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy. WRAPS has four major steps or phases.

Step 1. Monitor water bodies and collect data

The cycle begins with a two-year intensive monitoring program of lakes and streams in which the MPCA determines their overall health and identifies impaired waters. Results of monitoring that other state, federal, and local organizations have performed for various purposes are included in the process. Additional information is collected on the watershed’s physical characteristics, including land use, topography, soils, and pollution sources. Outcomes of this step include the creation of a Monitoring and Assessment Report and a Stressor Identification Report on the watershed’s biota (fish, bugs, etc.). Learn more about monitoring.

Step 2. Assess the data

Based on the results of the monitoring in step one, MPCA water quality specialists evaluate the data to:

  • determine whether or not water resources meet water quality standards and designated uses
  • identify waters that do not meet water quality standards and list them as impaired waters
  • identify waters that should be protected
  • identify stressors affecting aquatic life in streams

Learn more about assessment and stressor identification.

Step 3. Develop strategies to restore and protect the watershed’s water bodies

Based on the watershed assessment, a WRAPS report and a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) are completed. The two provide details on water quality issues and identify what needs to be done to clean up streams and lakes that are impaired and to protect those that are at risk of becoming impaired.

Download helpful resources. MPCA staff and contractors will use these tools:

Step 4. Conduct restoration and protection projects in the watershed

In this step, restoration and protection projects are implemented in the watershed. Various local units of government, including watershed districts, municipalities, and soil and water conservation districts, take the lead in developing and carrying out implementation plans based on what is learned during the earlier steps of the process. Civic engagement and public participation are core elements of all steps throughout the process.