A lake surrounded by trees.

A watershed is an area of land that collects and drains water into a specific water body, such as a stream, lake, river or wetland. Watersheds provide us with water for drinking, recreation, industry and agriculture. Wildlife also need healthy watersheds for food and shelter.

Water quality is a major concern in a watershed. Most water pollution in a watershed comes from nonpoint sources, such as parking lots and roads, crop fields and pastures, and construction sites and lawns. Since water resource problems are most often tied to land use in a given watershed, they often cut across political jurisdictions. By examining water resource issues on a watershed basis – instead of along political boundaries, problems can be assessed in relationship to their sources so that the causes can be addressed in the most effective manner.

A watershed planning approach provides a framework for local stakeholders to more effectively prioritize concerns and coordinate and integrate available programs and resources to address their water resource problems. The department provides support for watershed planning through several programs.

  • Nonpoint Source Management Program - A program that engages citizen organizations, federal, state and local governments, as well as universities and other stakeholders to plan for and implement nonpoint source pollution control practices and monitor for improvements to water quality.
  • Source Water Protection Program - A program that supports local efforts to protect drinking water sources, while offering public water systems an opportunity to learn about a broad range of approaches to protect their water supply. While a local source water protection plan may include an entire watershed, they are often targeted to specific areas close to the water source. Watershed protection planners are encouraged to collaborate with public water systems operating within their area of interest to enhance the effectiveness of the larger watershed protection strategy.

The department also provides financial assistance to help communities plan and carry out various activities to help restore and protect waters that have been impaired or threatened by nonpoint source pollution.