US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

Handbook for developing watershed plans to restore and protect our waters


Courtesy of Courtesy of US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

This handbook provides information on developing and implementing watershed management plans that help to restore and protect water quality. A watershed is the area of land that contributes runoff to a lake, river, stream, wetland, estuary, or bay. A watershed management plan defines and addresses existing or future water quality problems from both point sources and nonpoint sources of pollutants. Experience over the past decade has shown that effective watershed management includes active participation from stakeholders, analysis and quantification of the specific causes and sources of water quality problems, identification of measurable water quality goals, and implementation of specific actions needed to solve those problems.

Don’t be daunted by the size of this handbook! Although it is comprehensive in terms of providing resources and tools for each step of the watershed planning process, it is laid out in an easy-to-read format with shortcuts and road maps along the way so you can flip to specific sections for more in-depth information. You might not need to read all the sections if you have already completed some stages of the watershed planning process. Read the highlights at the beginning of each chapter to determine whether you can skip to the next section.

This handbook is intended to serve as the basis for developing and implementing watershed plans to meet water quality standards and protect water resources. Although watershed plans are useful for all watersheds to protect and restore water resources, as well as to meet other community resource goals, they are critical for impaired or threatened waterbodies. The most recent national water quality assessment reported that 40 to 50 percent of the nation’s assessed waterbodies are impaired or threatened. This handbook is designed to provide a framework to help you develop a scientifically defensible plan that will lead to measurable results and an overall improvement in the water quality and watershed conditions that are important to your community.

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