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Healthy Watersheds Protection

Key Documents of the Healthy Watersheds Program

This page provides links to several EPA documents that have played key roles in the development and operation of the Healthy Watersheds Program. These include:
  • A Memorandum of Understanding among EPA and its healthy watersheds collaborators,
  • An action plan for the healthy watersheds initiative that led to this program,
  • A manual on concepts, assessments and management approaches, and
  • A collection of workshop products, newsletters and fact sheets.
On this page:

Healthy Watersheds Program Fact Sheet

This two-page summary of the Healthy Watersheds Program describes the program's origins and purpose along with synopses of its five primary activity areas:
  • Integrating Healthy Watersheds into EPA's CWA Programs;
  • Assisting Practitioners through Healthy Watersheds Assessment;
  • Implementing Healthy Watersheds Protection;
  • Fostering External Partnerships, Coordination and Communications; and
  • Growing the Community of Practice.

Last updated in 2017.

EPA Healthy Watersheds Program Fact Sheet (PDF)  (2 pp, 195 K)

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Memorandum of Understanding to Promote the Healthy Watersheds Initiative

On February 22, 2013, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU formalizes a mutual collaboration between these groups as they strive to develop and implement healthy watersheds programs in states and with regional aquatic ecosystem programs. These programs include working with states and other partners to identify healthy watersheds state-wide and to implement healthy watershed protection plans, to integrate such protection into EPA programs and to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of protecting our remaining healthy watersheds. TNC, EPA, and ACWA will promote data gathering / data sharing and evaluation of conservation and environmental outcomes resulting from the implementation of state and regional healthy watershed programs.

Memorandum of Understanding to Promote the Healthy Watersheds Initiative (PDF) (7 pp, 370 K)

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Healthy Watersheds Initiative: National Framework and Action Plan

This report is a collaborative product of EPA headquarters and the regions and our State and federal partners with input from non-governmental organizations. State partners include both the Association of Clean Water Administrators Agencies and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The Action Plan presents a clear, consistent framework for action, both internally among EPA's own programs and externally in working with our partners. The Action Plan describes the HWI, including its vision, guiding principles, goals and objectives; and presents an implementation framework for actions by EPA headquarters, Regions, and States. This Action Plan is a living document that will guide EPA and our State partner efforts to meet EPA's Strategic Plan Goal 2 Objective of protecting and restoring watersheds and aquatic ecosystems.

Healthy Watersheds Initiative National Framework and Action Plan 2011 (PDF) (28 pp, 9 MB)

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Identifying and Protecting Healthy Watersheds: Concepts, Assessments, and Management Approaches

This technical document was developed to help implement the Healthy Watersheds Initiative (HWI) by providing EPA and state water quality and aquatic resource scientists and managers with an overview of the key concepts behind the HWI, examples of approaches for assessing components of healthy watersheds, integrated assessment options for identifying healthy watersheds, examples of management approaches, and some assessment tools and sources of data. This document summarizes the many examples from across the country of state, local government, and others efforts to assess, identify, and protect healthy watersheds by understanding their systems context. This document can assist in those efforts and also serve as a resource for other states and their partners interested in conducting healthy watersheds assessments and implementing holistic, systems-based healthy watersheds protection programs.

The links below present the entire document as a whole and also as divided into seven sections with downloadable PDF files for each. You may view or download each file by clicking on its link. The full document is a very large file that may take a long time to download. The individual sections of the full document are much smaller files that will open quicker.

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Healthy Watersheds Integrated Assessments Workshop Proceedings

The EPA Healthy Watersheds Integrated Assessments Workshop was held in Estes Park, Colorado, November 2-4, 2010. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together national experts and practitioners to advance the state-of-the-science on integrated healthy watersheds assessments and discuss ideas on large-scale (e.g., state) implementation including using assessment results to guide strategic healthy watersheds protection programs. The workshop explored:
  • the relationships between healthy watersheds components and processes, and how to design assessments to capture those relationships;
  • methods to assess resilience of healthy watersheds; and
  • how integrated assessments can be practically implemented in state, tribal, or regional programs with goals to protect healthy watersheds. 
Key topics included:
  • Healthy Watersheds Assessments,
  • Watershed Resilience,
  • Developing Integrated Assessments,
  • Implementation of Healthy Watersheds Assessments,
  • Applications of Healthy Watersheds Assessments, and
  • Research Needs and Data Gaps.

Also included in the workshop proceedings are appendices with a list of workshop participants, workshop agenda, and copies of all the presentations and program summaries provided by the speakers.

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Healthy Watersheds Workshop Synthesis  

The purpose of this document is to synthesize and build on the discussions from the workshop. The ideas and approaches presented here should be considered as a starting point for further exploration of concepts related to healthy watersheds integrated assessments and protection programs. The target audiences for this synthesis document are scientists, program managers, and policy makers at the state, federal and local levels who have a technical understanding of the topics and will be implementing management programs. However, this document should not be interpreted as program implementation guidance. This synthesis document will also inform future research to support healthy watersheds integrated assessments, especially in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

The ideas and views presented in this synthesis document are not necessarily those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but rather, those of the individual authors and contributors, as well as the individual expert views and opinions of the workshop attendees. Approval for publication does not signify that the contents reflect the views of the Agency; no official endorsement should be inferred. This report provides information, resources, or assistance the users may then evaluate in terms of their own needs. Mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use or favoring by the United States Government. This document is not EPA policy, nor is it EPA guidance; it reflects the further development of ideas by some of the workshop participants.

Healthy Watersheds Integrated Assessments Workshop Synthesis (PDF) (78 pp, 1 MB)

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Economic Benefits of Protecting Healthy Watersheds

This fact sheet presents the economic benefits of protecting healthy watersheds by highlighting examples from existing peer-reviewed literature and studies. The fact sheet describes studies that demonstrate protecting healthy watersheds can reduce capital costs for water treatment plants and reduce damages to property and infrastructure due to flooding, thereby avoiding future costs. Additionally, examples in the fact sheet show that protecting healthy watersheds can generate revenue through property value premiums, recreation, and tourism. This fact sheet directs readers to important resources to learn more about the substantial efforts to monetize ecosystem services from across the country.

Fact Sheet: The Economic Benefits of Protecting Healthy Watersheds (PDF) (4 pp, 769 K)

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Healthy Watersheds Newsletters

Circulated from 2010 through 2012 as an outreach effort about healthy watersheds assessment and protection, these newsletter issues provide general interest stories about healthy watersheds for general audiences.

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