Itasca Waters - pagetitle

The Resource for Itasca County Lakeshore Homeowners


Itasca Waters (Itasca Water Legacy Partnership) is a unique blend of public agencies and private citizens all working towards the same goal.  

In 2006, volunteers and water quality advocates came together to talk about what could be done to protect and improve clean water resources and quality habitat in Itasca County.

Over a two- to three-year period, this committed group of individuals identified a number of strategies they felt could be implemented. In addition, the group formalized its operations by creating a name — the Itasca Water Legacy Partnership (IWLP) — and establishing a board of directors. The first election took place in January 2009.

During 2009 and 2010, IWLP sought to diversify its board and was successful in recruiting individuals and organizations with varying interests in Itasca County’s water resources. In addition, the group filed its certificate of incorporation and articles of incorporation under the laws of the state of Minnesota on December 23, 2010. This resulted in the successful obtainment of a federal EIN and 501(c)3 status in 2011.

Today, the mission of IWLP (which was renamed Itasca Waters in early 2017) is to "Team up with other organizations and concerned citizens to maintain abundant, clean water for our continued health, enjoyment and a strong economy."

A Citizen-driven Organization

As a key citizen-driven organization working on the frontlines of water quality issues in Itasca County, Itasca Waters leverages a unique blend of partnerships. As a whole, the organization works to implement, support, and promote research, education, and public outreach activities, all with the goal of maintaining abundant clean waters in the county.

Since 2006, Itasca Waters has been able to implement a wide range of programming with little overhead cost by partnering with a variety of funders. To date, the organization has received more than $1.5 million in grants from partners including the Blandin Foundation, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Itasca County Environmental Trust Fund (ICETF), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), the United States Forest Service (USFS), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and the state of Minnesota.


Many of Itasca Water’s Most Significant Accomplishments have been made possible by such funding (as well as dedicated volunteers) and include:

  • In 2008, a $327,000 grant from the MPCA enabled Itasca Waters to complete baseline water quality assessments in Itasca County.

  • In 2008, a $100,000 grant from the ICETF enabled Itasca Waters, Itasca Community College (ICC), and the Itasca County Soil and Water Conservation District to create a certified water quality lab on the ICC campus.

  • In 2008, a $79,000 grant from the ICETF was used to establish a revolving fund for the upgrade of septic systems in sensitive shoreland areas.

  • In 2008, a $75,000 grant from the LCCMR helped Itasca Waters establish a Native Shoreland Buffer Incentive Program.

  • In 2010, an additional $122,000 grant from the MPCA was used to continue baseline water quality assessment work in Itasca County.

  • In 2010, a $250,000 grant from the MPCA enabled Itasca Waters and multiple partners to conduct in-depth diagnostic studies on Pokegama and Deer lakes.

  • In 2011, an additional $160,000 grant from the LCCMR helped Itasca Waters identify sensitive shoreland areas in Itasca County.

  • In 2011, a $155,000 grant from Blandin Foundation was used to conduct a study of the economic value of Itasca County’s water resources and to help support operation of the water quality lab on the ICC campus.

  • In 2012, a $30,000 grant from the NFWF helped Itasca Waters participate in the identification and control of purple loosestrife infestations.

  • In 2014, a $17,000 grant from the ICETF was used to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

  • In 2014, a $90,000 grant from the state of Minnesota was used to help prevent the introduction and slow the spread of aquatic invasive species.

  • In 2015, a $89,000 grant from the state of Minnesota was used to help prevent the introduction and slow the spread of aquatic invasive species.

  • In 2018 Itasca Waters received a $150,000 grant from The Blandin Foundation to support our work over the next three years.  This is a very important step for us as we concentrate on good shoreland practices, as well as AIS, our economy, and many public outreach programs.  We are grateful to The Blandin Foundation for recognizing the value that Itasca Waters provides to Itasca County.

Significant Accomplishments

Over the years, Itasca Waters has achieved a number of other significant accomplishments including:

  • Since 2006, Itasca Waters has engaged in numerous public outreach events including Children First Fairs and the Itasca County Fair as well as ongoing meetings and events related to area lake associations, the Izaak Walton League, Rotary clubs, ISD 318 Community Education, and more.

  • In 2010, Itasca Waters was recognized with a cash prize in the Minnesota Community Pride Competition at the Minnesota State Fair. The award was made to Itasca Waters for community improvements in education and natural resources.

  • In 2010, Itasca Waters worked with partners to organize a water summit at ICC that presented educational and conservation information to water and recreation enthusiasts from around the region. This was a full-day event and was repeated in 2015. The 2015 event included a new partnership with the forestry community.

  • Since 2011, Itasca Waters has brought together volunteers and partners from across the region to conduct an annual water summit for 5th graders attending schools in Grand Rapids, Bigfork, and Deer River. Educational topics presented at the event include shoreline buffers, aquatic invertebrate identification, microscopic inverts, surface tension, journaling, watersheds, aquatic invasive species, and water-related art.

  • In 2012, Itasca Waters begin began conducting purple loosestrife inspections and eradication work in Itasca County. Funding from the NFWF and USFS was used to employ county residents who inoculated biological controls in area waterways. The program was eventually integrated into the work of the Itasca County Soil and Water Conservation District.

  • In 2013, Itasca Waters helped develop a Cooperative Invasive Specie Species Management Area (CISMA) in Itasca County. This work was conducted in collaboration with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Itasca County Land Department, Minnesota Department of Transportation, USFS, DNR, University of Minnesota Extension, and the Itasca County Organization of Lake Associations.

  • Beginning in 2013, Itasca Waters played a lead role in aquatic invasive species inspections at public landings in Itasca County. Inspections started at seven landings and grew to 40 in 2017. This work led to Itasca Waters hiring its first employee.  In keeping with our philosophy, the work was taken over by the Itasca County Soil and Water Conservation District in 2017.

  • In 2014, Itasca Waters successfully transitioned the water quality lab at ICC to RMB Labs, a for-profit entity. This was a major win, because an ongoing local lab is needed not only to test county surface waters, but to test well water for local drillers. In addition, it was paramount to maintain local laboratory resources in order to continue baseline work. Before Itasca Waters helped develop the lab back in 2008, only 75 lakes had credible data. Now, more than 300 lakes have credible baseline data.


IWLP is governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. The full Board meets quarterly and the Executive Committee, consisting of the officers and committee chairs, meets on a monthly basis. The board consists of both voting and non-voting technical advisors.


Awards Received

IWLP receiving 2014 Conservation Award from Itasca Soil & Water Conservation District

2014 "Outstanding Conservationist Award" from the Itasca County Soil & Water Conservation District 

2011 "Outstanding Citizen Volunteer Monitoring Program" from Minnesota Waters

2010 and 2011 "Re-inventing Minnesota — Minnesota Community Pride Award" from the Bush Foundation, MinnPost, InCommons and Minnesota Rural Partners

Photos by Mary Shideler