Water Monitoring and Surveys

The Water Monitoring and Surveys Unit collects data and provides information about stream flows in Minnesota. This information helps the DNR and others carry out statutory responsibilities and water management programs.

The DNR Commissioner has given the DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division Director authority to administer the majority of the state water law contained in Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 103G. Chapter 103G gives the commissioner authority to regulate work in public waters; control water appropriation and use; ensure the safety of dams; and conduct water resource surveys, investigations and studies.

Specifically, Section 103G.285, Subdivision 2 makes the commissioner responsible for limiting water withdrawals from streams during low flow conditions:

  • If data are available, permits to appropriate water from natural and altered natural watercourses must be limited so that consumptive appropriations are not made from the watercourses during periods of specified low flows. The purpose of the limit is to safeguard water availability for instream uses and for downstream higher priority users located reasonably near the site of appropriation.

Clientele, products, and services


Clientele are DNR Ecological and Water Resources technical staff, supervisors, and managers who need stream flow information to make permit decisions, technical staff in other DNR divisions, other agencies, local governments, consulting engineering firms, and members of the public needing stream flow information for planning and management decisions.

Requests for stream gauging assistance come from DNR field hydrologists, other state agency staff, and local governments and watershed organizations. The Water Monitoring and Surveys Unit receives more requests than they can serve, so project priorities must be determined.


  • Production and distribution of weekly statewide stream flow conditions reports during the open water season (typically April through October)
  • Production of stream discharge and elevation hydrographs
  • Technical reports analyzing hydrology for special projects
  • Technical guidance materials explaining stream flow measurement techniques
  • Production and distribution of daily stream flow conditions reports during severe drought or flood events


  • Accessing and interpreting data from more than 270 stream gages during the open water season
  • Making miscellaneous stream flow measurements at key locations during severe drought or flood events
  • Making periodic stream flow measurements and establishing and maintaining stream elevation-discharge curves for special projects and flood forecast/warning gages
  • Providing information on low-flow conditions to the division director and Water Regulations Unit for decisions about suspension of surface water appropriations
  • Reviewing and making recommendations on hydropower licensing and relicensing applications submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Providing historical stream flow, water level, and flow statistics
  • Monitoring the operation of hydropower facilities for compliance with federal licenses and state water permits
  • Applying hydrologic models to problems involving surface/ground water interactions.

Information management

The Water Monitoring and Surveys Unit uses a modern data management and analysis tool to store and manage continuous and discrete data from the network of stream gages, groundwater monitoring wells, mesonet stations, and lake gages. The system is jointly managed with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and is a collection of database management tools and hydrologic analysis applications that allows users to store and organize historical data, graphically analyze and edit hydrologic data, store and access digital photos, maps and other related information.

The system ingests data through a number of pathways, automatically processes the data, and serves it to local and remote users connecting directly to the system, or by automated export processes. DNR and MPCA stream gage data can be accessed at the DNR/MPCA Cooperative Stream Gaging Web page and the National Weather Service Web site.



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