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Note icon. Note: Grant funding is available for watershed planning. Beginning in 2022, a Request for Proposals (RFP) will be issued annually on Jan. 1 for Section 319 Nonpoint Source subgrant projects. Responses to the FY 2022 RFP will be accepted from Feb. 15, 2021 through April 1, 2021. Under this RFP, eligible watershed planning projects may receive funding in the amount of $50,000 to $200,000 and have a duration of up to three years. The current RFP is for both watershed planning and implementation projects. Information about Section 319 subgrants and how to apply for funding is available on the Section 319 Nonpoint Source Subgrants page.

Program Background

Since the late 1980's, organizations and agencies have moved toward managing water quality by using a watershed approach, which includes stakeholder involvement and management actions supported by sound science and appropriate technology.

A watershed based plan, best defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a strategy and work plan for achieving water resource goals that provides assessment and management information for a geographically defined watershed. It includes the analysis, actions, participants, and resources related to development and implementation of the plan. The watershed planning process uses a series of cooperative, iterative steps to characterize existing conditions, identify and prioritize problems, define management objectives and develop and implement restoration or protection strategies as necessary.

Below is a list of the key elements to be discussed in a watershed based plan:

Causes and Sources of Pollution - What are the watershed water quality problems and threats?

Load Reductions - Once the causes and sources of pollution leading to water quality impairments have been identified, you will estimate the current pollutant loads in the watershed and determine the nonpoint source pollutant load reductions needed to meet water quality standards. Doing so will help you identify and prioritize the nonpoint source best management practices that are needed to correct the water quality impairment (next steps).

Nonpoint Source Management Measures - What are you going to do about the problems and threats and where will you do it? Which management practices will be selected and where do they need to be located to optimally achieve the target load reductions?

Technical and Financial Assistance - How are you going to pay for the implementation of the plan and what technical assistance will be needed? Who are your partners, how have they committed to assist?

Information and Outreach - How will you garner local support for the plan and its implementation? The plan needs an information/outreach component designed to enhance public understanding of the project and encourage their early and continued participation in selecting, designing, and implementing nonpoint source best management practices to improve nonpoint source conditions in the watershed.

Schedule - How long will it take to achieve your goals? Develop a schedule for implementing the management measures identified in earlier steps.

Milestones - What stepwise successes are you going to achieve to show progress? Set interim measurable milestones that need to be achieved for practices to be implemented effectively and according to schedule.

Performance Criteria - How will you know you are successful? Is progress being made toward attaining water quality standards by meeting milestones? Create criteria that can be used to establish benchmarks that will demonstrate the amount of progress being made towards achieving the plan’s water quality goals.

Monitoring - How will you measure your success over time? Develop a monitoring program that will be used to collect data to assess against benchmark criteria in order to determine when load reductions have been sufficiently achieved to meet water quality standards.

Nine Elements to Watershed Planning

Watershed based plans that are developed and implemented to manage and protect against nonpoint source pollution using Clean Water Act Section 319 grant funding must address EPA's nine critical planning elements. To help communities, watershed organizations and local, state, tribal and federal environmental agencies with the development and implementation of watershed based plans, EPA developed the Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters. A detailed explanation of the nine elements is available in Chapter 2 of the handbook (section 2.6).

 Note icon.Note: 2013 EPA guidance allows for alternatives to nine-element watershed based plans under specific conditions if they adequately meet guidance requirements and are approved by EPA.

Additional Resources

Section 319 Application Tools and Resources
319 Project Examples
EPA Guide for Developing Effective Watershed Plans