While admiring the Mississippi River from its banks, it may be difficult to tell how polluted our beautiful river really is. But the stretch of the Mississippi that passes through the Twin Cities has water quality impairments (meaning it could potentially make you ill) for elevated levels of E.Coli, nutrients, and mercury, aluminum, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in fish tissue.  

Pollutants get to the river in many ways. Some of the greatest contributors include runoff from agriculture, lawns, streets, and sidewalks. MEF Member Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) is working on all of them. Read on to learn how FMR works with policymakers, researchers, farmers, fellow nonprofits and everyday metro residents to address water pollution and protect the river’s natural resources.  


Friends of the Mississippi River engages people to protect, restore and enhance the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities region. They accomplish this through three primary areas of work 

  • Protecting our waters 
  • Land conservation 
  • River corridor stewardship 

Impact on Minnesota’s Water:

Friends of the Mississippi River educates and empowers Minnesota’s river stewards. Annually they engage over 4,000 people in volunteer stewardship and environmental education programming including nearly 2,000 youth – the next generation of river stewards.   FMR advocated and worked toward the State of Minnesota officially adopting a new set of river-friendly rules governing land use and development along the metro stretch of the Mississippi River, and they continue to work to ensure those rules are fully enacted.  

FMR has also restored over 1,250 acres of river habitat to its natural state for people and wildlife alike in the metro area. Recently they witnessed the fruition of years-long restoration at the William H. Houlton Conservation Area, in Elk River, when more than 160 riverfront acres bloomed into prairie for the first time in over 100 years. This former agricultural field is one of the largest undeveloped riverfront parcels in the urban corridor of the river. 

Get Involved: 

  • Become a River Guardian! Sign up and they’ll email you when an important river issue arises. FMR makes it quick and easy to contact decision makers. River Guardians are also invited to special happy hours and other events about important legislative and metro river corridor issues.   
  • Volunteer – FMR hosts approximately 60 public cleanups, hauls, pulls or plantings throughout the Twin Cities metro-area annually. See upcoming events and learn how you can help.  

To learn more about how MEF members are working together for clean water across Minnesota, visit the Impact page of our website.