Water Quality
UMN rowing team on the water

Water pollution laws — including the Federal Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act — exist to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters by preventing point and nonpoint pollution sources, and to ensure safe drinking water for the public. The Department of Environmental Health and Safety (DEHS), and its University Services partners, are responsible for ensuring compliance with water quality regulations as they apply to campus operations and construction. There are numerous University academic and outreach programs that support water quality research and initiatives including the Water Resources CenterSaint Anthony Falls LaboratoryLACCORE, and the Erosion and Stormwater Management Program.

Water Compliance Programs

NPDES Municipal Stormwater (MS4)

The NPDES MS4 Permit is designed to reduce the amount of sediment and other pollutants entering state waters from municipal stormwater systems. It requires permittees to develop and implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program (SWPPP) and adopt best practices for managing water quality and quantity.  The University maintains MS4 Phase II General Permits for its Twin Cities (UMTC) and Duluth (UMD) campuses. The Department of Energy Management, which is responsible for civil utilities systems on campus, oversees the UMTC and UMD MS4 Programs. 

NPDES Construction Stormwater

For the purposes of sedimentation control, certain land disturbing activities require a NPDES Construction Stormwater permit and/or University of Minnesota Grading Permit.  The project disturbance threshold and requirements apply to all University-owned property. This process is facilitated through the University Building Code Department with technical review provided by the Department of Energy Management.

NPDES Industrial Stormwater

Several campus facilities are subject to NPDES Industrial Stormwater regulations due to the nature of their operations. At these sites, additional measures are implemented to eliminate or greatly reduce exposure and runoff associated with significant materials and activities that have the potential to contaminate stormwater. DEHS Environmental Compliance staff works closely with facility operators to implement Best Management Practices (BMPs), inspections, routine sampling, and staff training. 

NPDES Industrial Wastewater

Any wastewaters discharged to a surface water must have permit authorization from the MPCA and must meet predetermined pollutant levels that are set based on the receiving water’s usage. The University has several facilities that are authorized through the NPDES wastewater permitting framework. DEHS works with facility operators and contractors to ensure compliance with permit conditions including reviewing sampling data with respect to discharge limits and completing routine data submittals.

Domestic and Industrial Wastewater (Sanitary)

University policy prohibits discharge of chemical wastes to the sanitary sewer without approval from DEHS

In the Twin Cities area, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) owns, operates, and maintains the regional wastewater conveyance and treatment system. A majority of wastewater generated at the University consists of domestic wastewater, which is conveyed through University sanitary infrastructure to the MCES regional treatment system.

Some University facilities have process-related wastewater, which requires permitting in accordance with MCES Industrial Waste Rules. DEHS works with facility operators to ensure compliance with permit conditions including reviewing sampling data with respect to discharge limits and completing routine data submittals.

Temporary discharges to the sanitary sewer (Twin Cities area) related to construction or maintenance require approval from MCES, and potentially adjacent municipalities depending on the discharge location. Please contact our team if you are planning a temporary discharge.

Other campus locations such as Duluth, Crookston, Morris, and Rochester discharge to the local sewer authority serving those areas. Approval must be obtained for additional or special discharges to those systems. Many CFANs Research and Outreach Centers are located in rural areas where there is no regional wastewater treatment system. These properties are served by a Subsurface Sewage Treatment System (SSTS or septic system). If you are installing, modifying, operating, or removing an SSTS, a permit and/or operating plan must be submitted to the University Building Code Department.

Drinking Water

Individuals must comply with applicable codes and standards regarding maintenance, operation, installation, or construction of any drinking water system on University property, to ensure that water intended for human consumption meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water quality standards. The University Building Code Department oversees compliance with drinking water regulations.