The Watershed Approach to Effective Planning and Project Development
Since the late 1980s watershed organizations, tribes, and federal and state agencies have moved toward managing water quality through a watershed approach. A watershed approach is a flexible framework for managing water resource quality and quantity within specified drainage areas, or watersheds. This approach includes stakeholder involvement and management actions supported by sound science and appropriate technology. Watershed plans will work within this framework by using a series of cooperative, iterative steps to characterize existing conditions, identify and prioritize problems, define management objectives, develop protection or remediation strategies, and implement and adapt selected actions as necessary. The outcomes of this process are documented or referenced in the watershed plan. The watershed plan is a strategy that provides assessment and management information for a geographically defined watershed, including the analyses, actions, participants, and resources related to developing and implementing the plan. The development of the watershed plan will require a certain level of technical expertise and the participation of a variety of people with diverse skills and knowledge.
One of the key characteristics of the watershed planning process is the implementation of a watershed plan which includes diverse stakeholder input. Research has shown that stakeholder input when brought into the process at the beginning stages of planning has a greater chance of success. The consolidation of varying interest groups into a network of professionals develop trust through understanding and cooperation and transcend traditional institutional boundaries to develop a collaborative approach to local resource management. Community members when encouraged to express and address their concerns from early on will be more likely to participate in developing management options and supporting plan implementation.
Using a watershed approach to restore impaired water bodies is beneficial because it addresses the problems in a holistic manner and the stakeholders in the watershed are actively involved in selecting the management strategies that will be implemented to solve the problems. There are often many issues that adversely affect local watersheds but one of the most common is nonpoint source pollution because it poses the greatest threat to water quality and today is recognized as the most significant source of water quality impairment in the nation. Any plan to mitigate for environmental impairments must include iterative, holistic, geographically defined, integrated, and collaborative processes developed by local stakeholders joining forces to implement solutions that make sense for the conditions found in local communities.
Crane Associates can help communities generate holistic watershed plans that provide the most technically sound and economically efficient means of addressing water problems strengthened through the involvement of local stakeholders. This approach addresses all the beneficial uses of the water body, the criteria needed to protect the use, and the strategies required to restore or prevent degradation. Our approach helps to facilitate and expedite cooperative, integrated water resource planning and successful implementation of needed management.