Watershed Planning Overview

The EPA has long promoted a watershed approach to solving water quality issues. They have developed extensive resources to assist stakeholders in developing and carrying out effective watershed plans. Targeting is not distinct from watershed planning, but instead provides a focused direction for the planning efforts in basins that experience high degrees of nonpoint source pollution. As such, groups interested in practicing targeted efforts to reduce pollutant loads can and should be guided by the EPAs watershed planning framework.

The watershed planning process contains 6 steps, summarized in the following diagram (from water.epa.gov):




In addition to using the process itself as a framework for targeting efforts, some lessons from EPAs watershed planning that apply directly to targeting are:

  • Planning efforts should start from a definitive and geographically defined unit of analysis
  • Planning  and implementing solutions for improved water quality is an iterative process – the plan is only a first step in a long term process
  • Identifying and involving all potential stakeholders from the beginning will ensure that the right people are at the table to implement the solutions that will actually lead to tangible results
  • Within any successful plan, both the technical, data driven aspects and the social and institutional factors must be accounted for

For More Information

Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to restore and protect our waters

The EPA’s Handbook is an extensive watershed planning assistance document published in 2008. In it you can find step by step instructions, technical assistance information, and case studies of successful planning efforts. It is available for free download on the EPA’s website.


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