Duluth Urban Watershed Advisory Committee: Protecting Water Quality and Enhancing Resilience to Flooding through Community Collaboration

Minnesota has adopted a watershed approach to address the state's 80 major watersheds. This approach looks at drainage area as a whole instead of focusing on lakes and streams one at a time, thus increasing effectiveness and efficiency. This watershed approach incorporates the following activities into a 10 year cycle:


Duluth-area streams are divided by two major watersheds: Lake Superior-South and St. Louis River. Duluth-area streams are more similar to each other in land use (urbanized), geology (both glacial till and bedrock present), and landform (flat, wetland-dominated uplands with steep, bedrock-dominated lowlands), than their counterparts in the surrounding major watersheds, and thus were grouped as their own major watershed unit.


Monitoring & Assessment were conducted in 2015-2016 at 6 locations - Keene Creek, Merritt Creek, Miller Creek, Chester Creek, Tischer Creek, and Amity Creek - and built on an already extensive monitoring network dating back to 2002. Water quality data was collected and analyzed by both NRRI and MPCA scientists.

10 streams in the Duluth-area are considered impaired for aquatic life beneficial use and/or aquatic recreation beneficial use. Aquatic life beneifical use is considered impaired when one, or more, of the following criteria do not meet their target:

  • fish index of biotic integrity (too little coldwater assemblages)
  • macroinvertebrate index of biotic integrity (unhealthy population)
  • dissolved oxygen (too low)
  • turbidity/total suspended solids (too high)
  • chloride (too high)
  • pH (too low)
  • ammonia (too high)
  • pesticides (high concentration)

Aquatic recreation beneficial use is considered impaired when fecal indicator bacteria levels are too high; Escherichia coli (E. coli) is used to approximate the amount of fecal contamination in surface waters. Seven streams in the Duluth-area are considered impaired for aquatic recreation, and four are impaired for aquatic life:

Waters not meeting state standards are listed as impaired and TMDL studies are performed. A TMDL, or Total Maximum Daily Load, determines the maximum amount of pollutant a water body can handle and still be healthy. TMDLs for suspended soilids (floating sediment in a stream's water column which harm fish and macroinvertebrates) and E. coli (bacteria) were developed in 2016-2018.

Restoration and protection strategies to address these impairments, as well as to protect those healthy streams, were also drafted in 2016-2018 - known as Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies. Drafts of these documents are available for download below.

Draft documents are available for download:

DRAFT TMDL for TSS & E. coli in Duluth Urban-area

DRAFT WRAPS for Duluth Urban-area


DRAFT Duluth Urban WRAPS HSPF Model Report

Appendix A - Detailed Snow Calibration Results and Validation

Appendix B & C - Detailed Flow Calibration Results & Validation

Appendix D - Suspended Sediment Calibration & Validation

Appendix E - Nutrients and DO Calibration & Validation

Appendix F - Chloride Calibration & Validation


Duluth Urban Streams: An Implementation Focused Assessment of Six Streams

Amity Creek Stressor Identification Report

Amity Creek Supplemental Data

Unique to the Duluth WRAPS process, this project also supports community education through citizen science as well as community engagement through an advisory board. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency partnered with Minnesota Sea Grant and University of Minnesota-Duluth Natural Resources Research Institute to form an advisory committee in 2015 - the Duluth Urban Watershed Advisory Committee (DUWAC) - tasked with uniting communities and agencies to work together to protet, preserve and restore local watersheds within the Duluth-area.

Duluth Urban Watershed Advisory Committee

The Duluth Urban Watershed Advisory Committee is made up of representatives from the municipalities in the Duluth Metropolitan Area. These include:

  • City of Duluth
  • City of Hermantown
  • City of Proctor
  • City of Rice Lake
  • Gnesen Township
  • Lakewood Township
  • Midway Township
  • Normanna Township
  • Thomson Township
  • Saint Louis County

Representives from University of Minnesota-Duluth, the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Transportation, and other relevant stakeholders which have a role in water management and watershed health, are also involved in the Committee.

The Committee's primary purpose is to serve as an information exchange and coordinating mechanism for a wide variety of projects currently underway, as well as proposed future projects, with consequences for the region’s water resources. A secondary goal is to recognize efficiencies and opportunities to share expertise.  Finally, the concept of building a shared urban watershed management framework is fundamentally about providing the intellectual space for partners and the citizenry to explore and institute practices, making sustainability of the region’s water resources a core part of how the region functions.

Currently, members of the Committee are focused on:

  • Continued collaboration and information exchange between communities and federal, state, local and tribal agencies.
  • Identifying and prioritizing projects among stakeholders, with the goals of maximizing cost-effectiveness, collaborating on multi-stakeholder grants, and leveraging financing for projects.
  • Improving stakeholder knowledge and capacity on local water issues.
  • Identifying options to update local codes and ordinances affecting water resources and associated ecosystems.
  • Addressing the existing water quality and associated ecosystem impairments in the local watersheds, and working to ensure unimpaired watersheds remain healthy.

Vision Statement:

Our water resources and associated ecosystems become healthier and more resilient through public engagement and local government collaboration.


The Committee is co-facilitated by:

Jesse Schomberg, MN Sea Grant, jschombe@umn.edu, (218) 726-6182

Tiffany Sprague, UMD-Natural Resources Research Institute, tsprague@d.umn.edu, (218) 788-2673

Advisory Committee Member List

Meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.

Contact Local Decision Makers

Elected Officials


Duluth Streams

Amity Creek
Brewery Creek
Buckingham Creek
Chester Creek
Clarkhouse Creek
Coffee Creek
Gary Street Creek
Greys Creek
Keene Creek
Kingsbury Creek
Knowlton Creek
Lester River
Merritt Creek
Miller Creek
Mission Creek
Morgan Park Creek
Oregon Creek
Sargent Creek
St. Louis River
Stewart Creek
Tischer Creek
U.S. Steel Creek
34th Ave E Creek
37th Ave E Creek
38th Ave E Creek
40th Ave E Creek
43rd Ave E Creek
47th Ave E Creek
50th Ave E Creek
58th Ave E Creek
32nd Ave W Creek
82nd Ave W Creek


Understanding Impairments and TMDLs

Understanding Landscapes

Geology Highlights


Solstice Flood

Regional Stormwater Protection Team (RSPT)