Supporting MDH work in drinking water

To improve the delivery and security of Minnesota’s drinking water, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) funded the following projects led by the Water Resources Center and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Minnesota State Drinking Water Plan (2022 to 2024)


Lessons from Drinking Water Professionals: An Assessment of Drinking Water Governance in Minnesota

2024-2033 Minnesota Drinking Water Action Plan Community Engagement Feedback Report

Project goals

To help MDH develop a statewide plan for protecting drinking water, MDH requested 

  • Gathering input from water professionals by leading them through discussions of the drinking water governance assessment framework created during the “Future of Drinking Water”project.
  • Gather input from public water system users and private well users by leading educational and feedback gatherings with community partners
  • Synthesize feedback gathered from both processes and provide recommendations to inform the MDH Drinking Water Strategic Plan

Project staff

Principal Investigator: Anne Nelson, Joel Larson

Co-Principal Investigator: A. Marcelle Lewandowski

Collaborator: Peter Calow Ph. D. (U of M Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy)

Partner organizations

  • Freshwater
  • Clean River Partners

Future of Minnesota Drinking Water (2018 to 2020)


Future of Drinking Water final report

Lead in Minnesota Water

Project goals

Research and develop an action plan to address threats to safe drinking water. Identify regulatory, technological, behavioral, and cost barriers that need to be addressed to develop public health policies and actions to address emerging threats to Minnesota drinking water supplied by municipal systems and private wells. 

  • Analyze the scope of potential lead exposure from drinking water in Minnesota.
  • Develop recommendations for a risk management and implementation framework for potential drinking water contaminants.
  • Suggest how to engage Minnesotans around the future of Minnesota drinking water.
  • Recommend how to go beyond federal drinking water standard requirements to further protect Minnesota public health into the future.

Project staff

Principal Investigator: A. Marcelle Lewandowski

Co-Investigators: Peter Calow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, U of M; Lucia Levers, and Eileen Kirby, Water Resources Center, U of M

Additional contributors: Steve Kelley, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, U of M; Menard Loth Ntouko Siewe, research assistant, U of M

Review of the Minnesota Department of Health contaminants of emerging concern program process for selecting chemicals (2014 to 2016)


Review of the Minnesota Department of Health Contaminants of Emerging Concern Program Process for Selecting Chemicals

Project summary

The University of Minnesota reviewed the process used by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Contaminants of Emerging Concern (MDH CEC) program to select chemicals to develop health-based guidance values. The reviewers concluded that the CEC program staff use a process that is overall thoughtfully developed, scientifically sound, and justifiable; however it is inadequately explained to stakeholders and could be refined to be clearer. A larger group of stakeholders around the state should be engaged to help identify chemicals of concern and needs for guidance values.

The review of the CEC program was the result of a legislative mandate. MDH receives funds from the Clean Water Fund. With the funding, it conducts several activities related to chemicals of emerging concern, including a process of nominating, screening and ranking chemicals for purposes of determining which chemicals will be given full evaluations for purposes of developing Health-based values (HBVs). The program completes approximately five full evaluations per year. HBVs are the concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is likely to pose little or no health risk to people, including vulnerable subpopulations.

The University of Minnesota was designated by the Legislature to conduct the review. Personnel from the Water Resources Center and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs collaborated on the project. The review consisted of fact gathering regarding the MDH CEC program, a literature review of scientific articles related to chemicals of emerging concern and processes for screening these chemicals, analysis of similar programs in federal agencies and other jurisdictions, and evaluation of the CEC screening process by a panel of scientists and by a panel of stakeholders. Although the University of Minnesota team discussed its recommendations with the scientists and stakeholders and with MDH, the recommendations are the product of the University of Minnesota team. The overall conclusion was that the MDH CEC program is sound but that MDH needed to improve and clarify several steps in the process and expand its efforts to engage stakeholders and the public.

See the full report for specific recommendations.

Project staff

Principal Investigator: A. Marcelle Lewandowski, Water Resources Center, U of M

Co-Investigator: Steve Kelley, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, U of M

Research assistants: James Meinert, Claire Williams