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

The 2012 and 2017 versions of the Ag BMP handbook are available in the Minnesota Water Research Digital Library.

The Agricultural BMP Handbook for Minnesota (2012)

Agricultural BMP Handbook for Minnesota (2017)

** Recipient of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota's 2013 ENGINEERING EXCELLENCE HONOR AWARD !


Purpose and Scope

The purpose of this project was to conduct a comprehensive inventory of agricultural Best Management Practices (ag-BMPs) that address water quality impairments in Minnesota. The final product contains:

  • A 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  

The 2012 Ag-BMP Handbook provided watershed professionals (i.e. local soil and water conservation staff, project managers, engineers, consultants, etc) the information necessary to identify suitable Ag-BMPs. It was a valuable tool and helped all persons involved with Total Maximum Daily Load studies (TMDLs) make more informed decisions.

The handbook was well received and has been updated to include more BMPs, a better definition of effectiveness variability, maintenance requirements and a more detailed cost and economic consideration. The revised handbook was released in late 2017.


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. 

Visit 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 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.