Surface Water & Sewers programs and policies

The City of Minneapolis has implemented storm and surface water management initiatives designed to carry out its responsibilities and goals.

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Stormwater Discharge Management Program

NPDES Phase I Permit

The Clean Water Act was passed in 1977, giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to implement pollution control programs for regulating discharges of pollutants into surface waters. Given this authority, the EPA created the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. The EPA has delegated permitting authority for Minnesota’s NPDES program to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The NPDES program mandates operators of a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) have a NPDES permit. Communities that have a minimum population of 100,000 must have a Phase I NPDES stormwater discharge permit. Recently the EPA added Phase II permit requirements for urbanized communities with a minimum population of 50,000, if not already covered by a Phase I permit.

The MPCA issued Minneapolis the initial NPDES Municipal Stormwater Discharge permit on December 1, 2000, and issued the existing permit on January 21, 2011. The NPDES permit requires Minneapolis to implement approved stormwater management activities, mitigate the pollution effects of urbanization on stormwater runoff, and to provide annual program reporting, including:

  • Installing and properly maintaining water quality ponds and grit chambers
  • Street sweeping
  • Controlling the use of pesticides and fertilizers
  • Providing educational efforts to raise community awareness and understanding of stormwater issues. For more information, see Maintenance & Operations. The permit requires the development of a new Stormwater Management Program, which will be submitted to the MPCA on July 20, 2011.

Flood Mitigation Program

Minneapolis experienced a series of rainstorms in July of 1997 that caused severe flooding throughout the City, resulting in physical damage to homes, businesses and vehicles.

In November of 1997, Minneapolis City Council adopted a Flood Mitigation Program aimed at minimizing localized flooding, as well as providing flood protection to Minneapolis. 

Water Resource Management Plan (WRMP)

The City of Minneapolis completed its LSWMP in October, 2006. Minnesota legislature created the Metropolitan Area Surface Water Management Act to protect surface water resources, resulting in the creation of four Watershed Management Organizations (WMOs) in Minneapolis:
  • Bassett Creek Water Management Commission
  • Minnehaha Creek Watershed District
  • Mississippi Watershed Management Organization
  • Shingle Creek Watershed Management Commission
These four WMOs were given the role of managing individual water bodies in the Twin Cities area.

Each municipality creates and implements its own local water management plan, consistent with those of the WMOs within its boundaries. For more information on the four WMOs in Minneapolis, see Partnerships. For more information, see the Water Resource Management Plan.

Combined Sewer Overflow Program

Minneapolis has implemented an aggressive program to eliminate Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). CSOs can occur when stormwater from heavy rains overload City storm drain pipes.  These storm drain pipes can overflow into sanitary sewer pipes, which sometimes discharge mixed sewage and stormwater into the Mississippi River.

For more information about CSOs and what you can do to help, see the Citys CSO web page: Combined sewer overflow - a Minneapolis solution.

Stormwater utility fee

The City of Minneapolis changed the way it bills its customers for providing stormwater management services in March, 2005. Since then, the costs for providing stormwater management has been listed as a separate line item on the City's utility bills. Prior to 2005, these costs were included in a single fee, combining storm drain and sanitary sewer services . 

Minneapolis has significant amounts of impervious area (buildings, parking lots, streets, alleys, driveways and sidewalks). These surfaces stop stormwater (rain or melting snow) from naturally absorbing into the ground. In an urban environment, the amount of impervious area on is the most significant factor affecting stormwater quality and quantity. 

In the interest of enhanced accountability and cost reporting, as mandated by Federal and State regulations, the Stormwater Utility Fee was established in 2005. This fee provides a funding structure specific to the storm drain system and stormwater management activities. Stormwater Fee revenue directly supports the planning, maintenance, operation, and upgrade of existing stormwater facilities, as well as the expansion of the Minneapolis stormwater management system. It is also used to fund stormwater management and water quality programs. 

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Surface Water & Sewers

Public Works




Public Service Center
250 South 4th St, Room 300
Minneapolis, MN 55415

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