Environmental problems, such as nonpoint source pollution, often cut across media and political jurisdictions. Consequently, environmental mitigation and protection require a comprehensive and collaborative approach that works with a multitude of programs and agencies. The watershed approach provides a framework for coordinating and integrating the myriad programs and resources. This approach directs the focus on water quality in a geographic area delineated by a watershed. A watershed is an area of land that drains to a particular waterway, such as a stream, lake, river, or wetland. By examining water quality issues on a watershed basis, problems can be observed in relationship to their sources so that the causes can be addressed in the most effective manner.
The watershed approach is based on four basic principles:
- Geographic focus, based on hydrological rather than political boundaries.
- Water quality objectives based on scientific data.
- Coordinated priorities and integrated solutions.
- Diverse, well-integrated partnerships.
Watershed planning is taking the watershed approach to the next level – the creation of a plan to assess and address water quality issues in a given watershed. These locally-lead plans provide important information to citizens about the point and nonpoint source pollution impacting the water resources within a given watershed. Watershed planning is at the heart of successful water quality restoration and protection.