EPA 842-B-05-003, Feb. 2005
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Successful Approaches to Watershed Management
Environmental protection programs in the United States have significantly improved water quality during the last quarter century. Nonetheless, many challenges remain. Of the waters assessed in the United States, about 40% of streams, 45% of lakes, and 50% of estuaries remain too polluted for fishing, swimming, and other uses. The watershed approach—targeting high priority water quality and habitat problems within hydrologically-defined areas—is essential to address these issues.
Through this handbook, we describe the highly successful approaches to watershed management implemented by the 28 National Estuary Programs (NEPs). The NEPs, unique partnerships of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and numerous federal, state, and local organizations, work together to address coastal watershed management challenges. This document presents new information from nearly 20 years of the NEP experience and describes how the NEPs:
- protect and restore estuaries by developing and implementing comprehensive management plans;
- foster consensus on difficult issues by establishing effective governance structures;
- conduct vigorous education and outreach by involving the public;
- obtain significant funding by leveraging scarce resources;
- establish credibility by using science to inform decision making; and
- sustain their efforts by measuring and communicating results.
The lessons learned contained in this handbook are relevant, not only to the NEPs, but to other watershed organizations including local governments, nonprofits and others who are working to establish, implement and evaluate watershed protection and restoration efforts. While the NEPs are home to certain elements not found in non-coastal areas, such as the presence of salt water ecosystems, and receive funding and organizational support from EPA, this handbook can be successfully applied without the presence of these elements. For example, the checklists and other methods used by NEPs to assess the effectiveness of existing institutions to manage water quality problems can be used by inland watersheds.
This website divides the handbook into eight sections, including an introduction, six chapters, and an appendices section, with downloadable PDF files for each. You may view a brief introduction.You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.
- Community-Based Watershed Management Handbook (PDF)(124 pp, 2 MB)
- Introduction to the Community-Based Management Handbook (PDF)(13 pp, 350 K)
- Chapter 1: The National Estuary Program (PDF)(7 pp, 363 K)
- Chapter 2: Establishing a Governance Structure (PDF)(15 pp, 1 MB)
- Chapter 3: Identifying Problems and Solutions (PDF)(13 pp, 1 MB)
- Chapter 4: Developing the Management Plan - A Blueprint for Action (PDF)(13 pp, 859 K)
- Chapter 5: Implementing the Management Plan (PDF)(25 pp, 949 K)
- Chapter 6: Conclusion (PDF)(3 pp, 180 K)
- Appendix A: Clean Water Act, Section 320, as Amended (PDF)(7 pp, 153 K)
- Appendix B: NEP at a Glance (PDF)(15 pp, 302 K)
- Appendix C: Components in Developing Action Plans for the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership (PDF)(3 pp, 152 K)
- Appendix D: Pros and Cons of Becoming a Tax-Exempt Nonprofit (PDF)(3 pp, 182 K)
- Appendix E: Excerpt from an NEP Finance Plan (PDF)(3 pp, 147 K)
- Appendix F: Reference Material (PDF)(3 pp, 182 K)