River in Minnesota.

MN Impact: Social Measures Monitoring System Helps Agencies Cleanup MN Water

July 31, 2017


Science makes it clear that the greatest factor affecting water resources is what people do on the land. In order to mobilize Minnesotans to take voluntary actions to protect and restore Minnesota's waters, we need to better understand and address the drivers of positive actions as well as the barriers and constraints that exist.

What has been done

In 2008, the Minnesota Legislature committed to supporting improvements in Minnesota's water quality through the Clean Water Fund. University researchers and Extension educators have been key partners in this effort including tracking how well education, outreach, and civic engagement strategies are working.

Researchers developed a new social monitoring system that has been piloted and adopted by several state agencies in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Social Measures Monitoring System (SMMS) is a scientific approach that provides a common set of social outcome statements that can be used by each state agency thus creating a common starting point for consistency.


End users have applied SMMS findings to redesign community engagement strategies in natural resource plans, better implement community engagement in natural resource programming, and design new training materials and programs for natural resource agency staff and other professionals.

In one example, in a statewide survey staff at Minnesota's Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) identified the need to "grow" more local ability to address ground water issues and spend more money and time on local outreach efforts. The survey results were used to tailor the content of four groundwater workshops for SWCD in greater Minnesota.