The 1980s were by and large good years for Freshwater, which now boasted a national reputation as a mover and shaker in the world of water resources.
Between 1978 and 1982, the organization helped establish a Wetlands Awareness Week in Minnesota; held national conferences on water, health and water pollution, preparing for limited water supplies, and ramifications of diverting water from the Great Lakes; produced a brochure on shoreline management to protect lakes, helped with water awareness programs elsewhere in U.S. and Canada; helped produce TV documentaries; advised governments; and lots more. In 1981–82 alone, archives tally 25 publications, 60 speeches, and 20 conferences and seminars. Activities listed for 1982 included testifying before the U.S. Senate, informing media programs, and contributing to the development of the Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act by the Minnesota Legislature.
In 1985, the Freshwater board, feeling like it had hit the limits of regional impact, voted to go national. It formed BioTrol, a company that received an EPA grant related to degrading pollutants in soil. It also started a Health and Environment Network and took on the task of co-publishing the U.S. Water News.
The 1980s brought a growing interest in and concern for groundwater as well. From 1986 to 1990, Freshwater worked with state and federal agencies, the Fertilizer Institute, Farm Bureau, Minnesota Extension Service, National Agricultural Chemicals Association, and experts from a dozen states and the Soil and Water Conservation Society to improve understanding of the link between agrichemicals and groundwater. This work contributed substantially to the passage of the Minnesota Groundwater Protection Act of 1989.
In 1989, aquatic invasive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil started taking on new urgency. This era also brought a focus on wetlands, with Freshwater playing a role in passage of the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act of 1991.