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Note icon. Note: Grant funding is currently available for watershed planning. A Request for Proposals (RFP) is issued annually on October 1 for Section 319 Nonpoint Source watershed based planning and/or implementation grant projects. Information about Section 319 subgrants and how to apply for funding can be found 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 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 the water quality standards. Doing so will help you identify and prioritize the various nonpoint source best management practices that are needed to correct the water quality impairment (next steps).

Nonpoint Management Measures - What are you going to do about the problems and threats and where will you do it? (i.e.: Which management practices will be selected and where do they need to be located to achieve the target load reductions?)

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

Information and Education - 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? Follows benchmarks and milestones, is progress being made toward attaining water quality standards?

Monitoring - How will you measure your success over time? Should be able to determine when load reductions have been achieved adequately to meet water quality standards or beneficial uses.

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 for additional information. A detailed explanation of the nine elements is available in section one of the handbook. 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