What is a Watershed?

A Watershed is an area of land that drains to a common body of water.  Watersheds vary in shape and size, and are generally a mix of uplands, wetlands, streams, rivers and lakes.

There are 81 major watersheds in Minnesota, some of which overlap into adjoining states. Together, these watersheds make up the State’s ten drainage basins. The Pelican River watershed, located in northwest Minnesota, is part of the Otter Tail watershed in the Red River of the North Basin.




What is a Watershed District?

Watershed Districts are special purpose local units of government that have been created to help prevent and solve water resource problems on a watershed basis. The boundaries of a watershed district generally follow the hydrologic or topographical limits of an area or region. In 1955, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Watershed Act in order to address water-related issues and concerns occurring within the state at the watershed level.

Most often, watersheds are named for the major surface water resource within the watershed. Hence, the name Pelican River Watershed District.


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Pelican River Watershed District

What does a Watershed District do?

Since water flows from place to place, a water resource problem in one community may be caused by another community’s actions. By managing water resources on a watershed basis, communities can jointly plan to prevent problems, and coordinate and equably pay for projects to correct problems when they do occur.

Watersheds districts work with community partners, natural resource agencies and the public to address issues relating to water quality, quantity, use and treatment within their jurisdictions.

What authority does a Watershed District have?

  1. Adopt rules with the power of law to regulate, conserve, and control the use of water resources within the district.
  2. Contract with units of government and private and public corporations to carry out water resource management projects.
  3. Hire staff and contract with consultants.
  4. Assess properties for benefits received and levy taxes to finance district administration.
  5. Accept grant funds, both public and private, and encumber debt.
  6. Acquire property needed for projects.
  7. Acquire, construct, and operate, drainage systems, dams, dikes, reservoirs, and water supply systems.
  8. Enter upon lands within and without the district to make surveys and conduct investigations.

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