The BRRWD, formerly known as the South Buffalo Watershed District, was established on August 31, 1960, and was comprised of approximately 344 square miles in Clay, Otter Tail, and Wilkin Counties (primarily the South Branch of the Buffalo River). Following a severe summer flood in 1975, it became apparent that any rational approach to address flooding needed to include all of the area contributing runoff to the Buffalo River. By order dated September 17, 1976, the State of Minnesota expanded the BRRWD and changed the name to the BRRWD. The same order expanded the representation on the Board of Managers. The newly formed Board of Managers adopted their first Overall Plan on January 9, 1978, and submitted the plan to the State for approval. The State approved the Overall Plan on July 26, 1978. The most recent Watershed Management Plan (WMP) was prescribed (approved) by the State on June 23, 2010.
In 2011, Wilkin and Otter Tail Counties petitioned the State to expand the BRRWD instead of creating a new separate watershed district for the area that was located between the pre-expansion south border of the BRRWD and the Bois de Sioux Watershed District. By order of the Board of Water and Soil Resources on April 25, 2012, the State of Minnesota expanded the BRRWD to its current size. The same order expanded the representation on the Board of Managers to include an additional manager from Wilkin County and a manager from Otter Tail County.