Get Involved

Be part of the ongoing effort to improve and protect water quality in the Minneota River Basin by volunteering to help with a community clean-up through the Friends of the Minnesota Valley or learn about wonderful world of mussels with the River Ranger program or work with the Chippewa River Watershed Project to install a rain garden on your property.  Citizen involvement plays a key role in creating a place where people can enjoy the beauty of the natural environment.  There are literally hundreds of opportunities for citizens of all ages to get involved.  We have divided them up into specific sections to help you identify which one might fit you best.

If you know of a volunteer opportunity or organization not listed here please send us an email at

Nonprofit Organizations

The Minnesota River Basin features a wide-range of nonprofit organizations dedicated to engaging and involving citizens in their work and mission.  Three of the nonprofits – CURE, CCMR and Friends – cover a specific region of the watershed (Upper, Middle and Lower) while the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance focuses on working on issues throughout the entire basin.  Some organizations concentrate on improving water quality (Citizens for Big Stone Lake), others have a broader mission (Tatanka Bluffs) and many others work to create more wildlife habitat or hunting and fishing opportunities. 

Click here for a complete list of nonprofit organizations working in the Minnesota River Basin along with a simple description and contact information.

Watershed Districts

In 1955, the Minnesota Legislature authorized the creation of Watershed Districts to help form special purpose local units of government to manage water issues based on the watershed’s natural hydrologic boundaries.  These districts are governed by a board of managers appointed by county commissioners located in the watershed.  Each watershed district offers opportunities for citizens to get involved whether through implementing conservation practices, participating in educational events or as simple as being a proactive watershed resident.  Watershed Districts are overseen by the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

There are seven organized Watershed Districts in the Minnesota River Basin.  Click here for a complete list along with a simple description and contact information.

Watershed Projects

In addition to Watershed Districts, a number of projects have been formed to work on water quality issues in a specific watershed.  Most of these projects got started by conducting a diagnostic or assessment of the watershed to identify water quality issues and come up with a plan on how to address them.  All of these projects are working on implementing Best Management Practices, providing educational and information activities, and conducting water quality monitoring.  A citizen can help out by assisting with public information campaigns, taking transparency tube or Secchi disk readings, and talking to their neighbors about water and pollution issues.    

Click here for information on eight watershed projects in the Minnesota River Basin.

State-wide Organizations / Agencies

Minnesota is blessed with a diverse selection of nonprofit organizations and state agencies working on all types of environmental-related projects and programs involving water quality, conservation, natural resources, etc.  There is some overlap between these organizations and agencies when it comes to their mission and the type of projects they focus on.  Volunteer opportunities can include monitoring biological indicators like macroinvertebrates, adopting a river section to keep clean, and enroll undeveloped land into a permanent trust. 

Click here for a selection of state-wide organizations and agencies that can provide assistance with water quality, natural resource, conservation and other related issues.

National Organizations / Agencies

An important role when it comes to improving water quality and engaging citizens is undertaken by organizations and agencies functioning on the national level.  Federal agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manage two large areas of land on the Minnesota River and also provide funds to private landowners to restore wildlife habitat.  Nonprofit organizations play an important role including Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited who work with citizens, government entities and wildlife groups to buy land for public use and improve water quality on shallow lakes.  Some organizations/agencies fulfill a regulatory and/or funding role.

Click here for a selection of national organizations and agencies that can provide assistance with water quality, natural resource, conservation and other related issues.

Universities and Colleges

Educational institutions have been involved with the effort to protect, study, and inform the public about ongoing water quality issues in the basin.  Examples of this effort include the establishment of the Water Resources Center at Minnesota State University in Mankato and water-related studies by both professors and students.  The University of Minnesota has also focused a lot of attention on the Minnesota River, in particular through research on all types of pollutants.  Out on the western end of the basin, the University of Minnesota Morris is creating a buzz from its sustainability program and environmental-focused major.   These institutions offer workshops, events, and classes on environmental issues for the public.

Click here for a list of universities and colleges found in the Minnesota River Basin.

American Indian Communities

For centuries, the Dakota has maintained strong connections to the Minnesota River and its many tributaries and all that time focusing on protecting the natural resource community.  Today, there are three Dakota communities along the Minnesota River with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux located on the lower end in the Twin Cities.  Both of the other communities – Lower Sioux and Upper Sioux – can be found near the middle of the river.  Each of them supports an environmental office to monitor its natural resources like ground water, incorporate conservation practices to protect Tribal water, land and air along with other related duties.

Click here for a list of American Indian Communities in the Minnesota River Basin.

Soil and Water Conservation Districts

As a local government unit, Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) began to form in the 1930s as a direct result of the landscape destruction during this period of intense drought compounded by poor farming practices.  Today, each of the counties in the Minnesota River Basin supports a SWCD office with two found in Otter Trail County.  SWCDs concentrate on working with landowners, farmers and others to install conservation practices to protect and restore natural resources of water and soil.  Many of these offices also provide educational programs, monitoring activities, and other opportunities to engage the public on environmental issues.   The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) administer state funding for the SWCDs.

Click here for a list of Soil and Water Conservation Districts found in the Minnesota River Basin.