What is a Watershed? Quite simply, a watershed is the area of land that drains into a distinct watercourse or waterbody, that is a lake, river, stream, wetland, estuary, or bay.
What Is Watershed Management and Why Is It Important?
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection defines watershed management as “the process of implementing land use practices and water management practices to protect and improve the quality of the water and other natural resources within a watershed by managing the use of those land and water resources in a comprehensive manner.”
All activities that occur within a watershed, ranging from new land development, to agricultural activities, to everyday lawn care practices, can affect a watershed’s natural resources and water quality. Runoff from point and nonpoint sources can contribute significant amounts of pollution into our waterbodies. Watershed management helps protect and restore water resources and other natural resources in the watershed by identifying the types of pollution and pollution sources present in the watershed, the degraded or impaired habitats and recommending ways to reduce or eliminate those pollution sources and habitat impairments.
Most watersheds extend over political boundaries, often involving multiple communities and sometimes even multiple states, which often have different visions and priorities for the use of the resources. Watershed planning is also important because it results in a partnership among the affected parties in the watershed. It provides a framework for protecting and restoring natural resources in a collaborative and efficient way, especially during times when financial resources are limited.
Why Develop A Watershed Management Plan?
Developing a comprehensive watershed based plan is critical to the success of your watershed management efforts, particularly for restoring polluted or otherwise impaired waterbodies. Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) website provides additional information about watershed planning.
An impaired waterbody is a river, stream, lake, estuary, or bay that does not meet state water quality criteria to support a particular use such as swimming, fishing, or drinking. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) maintains a list of impaired waters in the State of Connecticut, with the ultimate goal of reducing or removing the impairments. Developing and implementing a watershed based plan is the preferred approach for restoring impaired waterbodies and protecting threatened waterbodies.
In 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued guidelines promoting the use of Section 319 funding for developing and implementing watershed based plans to restore impaired waters and protect unimpaired waters. The EPA guidelines describe Nine Elements that must be addressed in a watershed based plan to qualify for funding under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. The Connecticut DEP recommends that all watershed management plans for impaired or threatened basins include all nine elements of a watershed based plan to ensure eligibility for 319 funding. Other federal grant programs that fund watershed implementation projects also require or encourage developing an approved watershed based plan that follows the EPA Nine Elements.