By Sarah Boser, Sauk River Watershed District Water Resource Manager

Greetings! My name is Sarah and I am the Water Resource Manager for the Sauk River Watershed District (SRWD). I have worked for the SRWD for almost 8.5 years, and during that time I have been regularly asked, “So, what is a watershed district anyway?” I’m here today to provide some clarity on what a watershed district is, as well as what they do.

A watershed district is a special purpose, local unit of government (not state or county government) with its own legal boundary. The boundary is established based on water flow to a particular body of water. For example, the SRWD boundary is based on the flow of water that ends up in the Sauk River – which includes a large portion of Stearns County, along with portions of Douglas, Todd, Pope and a little of Meeker Counties (see map).

With a legal boundary based on water flow, it makes sense that the primary focus of a watershed district would be water resources and how they relate to water quality and water quantity. That focus, however, can take several different shapes. Some watershed districts collect and maintain hydrological data, while others regulate water use. Other watershed districts manage and maintain drainage systems, manage flooding, monitor groundwater, or conduct water quality surveys. The SRWD focuses both on water quality and water quantity through a variety of the activities previously listed and more.

Watershed districts have a unique set of abilities and authorities to utilize in order to accomplish the work they have. These abilities and authorities are explained in Minnesota Statute 103D, and in situations such as the SRWD where the watershed district is also the drainage authority, Minnesota Statute 103E also applies. As staff, we know that a lot of this information is not familiar to the general public and would like to dedicate some time to spreading the word about watershed districts. Look for upcoming topics such as the organizational composition of the SRWD, where funding comes from and why assessments occur, the importance of water quality, and more!

Questions regarding this column may be directed to Sarah Boser, Water Resource Manager for the Sauk River Watershed District at sarah@srwdmn.org or 320.352.2231.

Osakis Voices is rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.