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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Clean Water Fund > Clean Water Research Program > Ag BMP Handbook for Minnesota

The Agricultural BMP Handbook for Minnesota

Principal Investigator: Tom Miller
Co-Investigator(s): Joel Peterson
Organization(s): Emmons & Olivier Resources, Inc.
Sponsor: Clean Water Fund
Award Amount: $94,500
Start Date: 3/22/2011 | End Date: 6/29/2012
Project Manager(s): Adam Birr

** Recipient of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota's


AgBMP Handbook banner


Purpose and Scope

The purpose of this project is to conduct a comprehensive inventory of agricultural Best Management Practices (ag-BMPs) that address water quality impairments in Minnesota. The goal is to create a single handbook that includes:

  • Pile of blue handbooksA definition of ag-BMPs that affect water quality 
  • An estimate of the effectiveness of each ag-BMP
  • An estimate for the cost of design, installation and maintenance
  • A list of the potential barrier to adoption
  • A list of knowledge gaps  

When complete, the ag-BMP handbook will provide watershed professionals (i.e. local soil and water conservation staff, project managers, engineers, consultants, etc) the information necessary to identify suitable ag-BMPs. This will be a valuable tool that helps all persons involved with Total Maximum Daily Load studies (TMDLs) make more informed decisions.

The advantage of a handbook is that it can be reviewed overtime and easily updated to reflect the most recent advances in science and technology. This will serve to complement existing resources about BMPs that are currently available to conservation professionals.

Why is this necessary?  

  • An ag-BMP handbook will help TMDL practitioners estimate the impact of BMPs, quantify the benefits and ensure that BMPs are placed in areas of the landscape where they will have the greatest environmental benefits.
  • Much of the information that exists about BMPs is dispersed in different places such as agency websites, peer reviewed journal articles, white papers, summaries from meetings, etc. There is a need for more up-to-date and concise information about BMP effectiveness.

What is a TMDL?

TMDL is the acronym for Total Maximum Daily Load. A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards. 

Person fishing in a canoe at sunsetVisit the EPA's TMDL webpage for general information

Visit the MPCA's TMDL webpage for information specific to Minnesota

The federal Clean Water Act requires states to adopt water quality standards to protect waters from pollution. These standards define how much of a pollutant can be in the water and still allow it to meet designated uses such as drinking water, fishing and swimming.   

Water Standards are set for:

  • Bacteria
  • Nutrients
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Turbidity (how clear or unclear the water is)

What is an impaired waterbody?

A waterbody is impaired if it does not meet water quality standards as set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), does not support it's desired use (i.e. drinking water, swimming, trout stream, etc), and is listed on the EPA's 303(d) list.

What are some types of agricultural BMPs?

 Grass waterway between two agricultural fields


Grass waterways, buffer strips, cover crops, nutrient management plans, proper manure management, conservation tillage, irrigation water management, wind breaks, integrated pest management, fencing for livestock, etc.

MDA Contact

Margaret Wagner
Clean Water Technical Unit Supervisor
Margaret.Wagner@state.mn.us ~ 651-201-6488