Watershed Based Planning
A watershed is the area of land that drains into a lake, river, stream or wetland. Most water pollution comes from many nonpoint sources in a watershed – like parking lots, crop fields, pastures, construction sites and lawns. When water from rain or snowmelt runs across the watershed, it can pick up pollutants from the surface of the land, such as soil, bacteria, fertilizer, chemicals and more, and carry them into the nearest waterbody. This polluted runoff is known as nonpoint source pollution (NPS). For most watersheds, the key to clean water is to manage the land in a way that minimizes nonpoint source pollution. To do that, it helps to have a plan.
Development of a long-term comprehensive plan should involve the community, as well as people experienced in water resource management. A voluntary, locally-led planning process that addresses a watershed’s specific social, economic and environmental concerns helps ensure long-term success of the plan. Like a road map directing you from the start to finish of your effort, the plan helps you create a targeted strategy for making changes in your watershed to reach water resource goals.
Section 319 Nonpoint Source Grant Funding for Watershed Planning
Funding to assist interested stakeholders develop a watershed based plan (WBP) is available from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources based on priorities described in an annual Request for Proposals (RFP). This funding is provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act and is available for watersheds with a TMDL or with waters on the state’s 303(d) list of impaired waters that have been impaired by NPS. Section 319 subgrants are awarded on a competitive basis, with availability and state priorities for planning listed in the funding opportunity RFP. For more information visit the Section 319 Nonpoint Source Subgrants page.
WBPs developed using Section 319 subgrant funding that have been accepted by EPA and the department are eligible for additional Section 319 funding for plan implementation.
The planning process must include stakeholder involvement and propose management actions supported by sound science and appropriate technology. This process uses a series of cooperative, iterative steps to describe current conditions, identify and prioritize problems, define management objectives and develop and implement restoration or protection strategies as necessary. In order to ensure the success of the plan in achieving water quality goals, there are nine key elements that must be included in a watershed based plan developed with Section 319 funding:
- Causes and Sources of Pollution: Identify the watershed’s water quality problems and threats.
- Load Reductions: Current pollutant loads in the watershed must be estimated, and the nonpoint source pollutant load reductions needed to meet water quality goals must be determined.
- Nonpoint Source Management Measures: Determine which NPS management practices need to be implemented, and where they need to be located, to optimally achieve the target load reductions.
- Technical and Financial Assistance: Describe how you will 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: Develop an information/outreach program to garner local support for the plan and its successful implementation.
- Schedule: Develop a schedule for implementing the management measures and outreach program identified in earlier steps.
- Milestones: Set interim measurable milestones that will demonstrate step-wise plan implementation according to schedule that will lead to attainment of the plan’s water quality goals.
- Performance Criteria: 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: 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 goals.
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.
Watershed Based Planning Resources
- EPA’s Nine Minimum Elements for a WBP: Detailed explanation of the nine key elements
- Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters: EPA’s handbook to guide watershed based planning
- Quick Guide to Developing Watershed Plans: From EPA