Watershed Management Guide
Steps in the Watershed Management Process
Step 1: Identify and Network with Local Agencies and Citizens
- Gather all watershed stakeholders (citizens, riparians, organizations, local governments, developers, etc.) to discuss and record water quality concerns.
- Develop a steering committee that includes at least one individual from each stakeholder group, authoritative members of the community that are capable of facilitating change (council men and women, commissioners ect.), and local citizens that will be affected by the changes in the watershed management.
- Hold a steering committee meeting to review and add to the water quality concerns previously discussed (e.g. groundwater quality, storm drain monitoring) list all individuals/positions that will be needed to facilitate change, and contact the individuals/positions on that list that are not at the meeting to ask them to join the committee.
- Identify an appropriate organization to lead the steering committee and identify basic roles and responsibilities.
- The leader’s role is to ensure that the watershed planning and implementation process continues to move forward.
- Decide how the committee will make decisions (i.e. by majority vote)
- Establish focus groups, including a technical committee of professional individuals that have access to information about the watershed (i.e. maps and spatially referenced data).
- Determine the geographic scope of your watershed.
- A description of the characteristics that affect water quality in the watershed and a topographical map depicting the hydrologically distinct watershed boundaries and location of all surface waters, including lakes and tributaries (consult technical committee).
- Watershed boundaries should be defined by surface water features (i.e. a drainage basin, topography) and should not exceed 100,000 acres.
- If your designated watershed is part of a larger watershed project, coordinate activities with the larger watershed’s project managers.
- Compile a resource library to access for information in the future.
Step 2: Get to Know Your Watershed!
- Identify designated and desired uses for your watershed
- Designated uses are established by state and federal water quality programs and, in Michigan, include:
Identify the designated uses that are not being met and those threatened by activities in your community.
These should correspond with the water quality concerns stated in the initial stakeholders meeting.
Desired uses include anything that your community would like to see in the watershed (i.e. nature trails, wetland protection).
Identify known and suspected pollutants in your watershed
- Industrial water supply
- Public water supply at the point of intake
- Warmwater fishery
- Other native aquatic life and wildlife
- Partial body contact recreation
- Total body contact recreation between May 1 and October 31
Identify known and suspected sources of each pollutant in your watershed (consult technical committee) and the causes of these pollutants.
- Pollutants include anything that impairs the designated uses of the watershed (i.e. sediment, pesticides, bacteria, nutrients).
- The technical committee should collect pollutant information and the steering committee should develop a chart that associates each pollutant with the designated use(s) that it impairs.
Develop goals for watershed resource management based on restoring and protecting the designated uses of your watershed.
- Sources of pollutants can be human activities or natural processes that are exaggerated by human activities, while causes are the human actions that create the source of pollution.
- There is also a distinction between point source and nonpoint source pollution.
Develop an initial water quality summary
- For each impaired and threatened designated/desired use in your watershed, develop a goal that will change the activity that causes pollution (e.g. storm water or runoff reduction).
- The summary should be clearly written in a short paragraph form and should include all of the impaired and threatened designated uses, the pollutants along with their sources and causes, and the goals for the watershed.
- This summary can be used to educate citizens, stakeholders, and local officials.
Step 3: Define a Critical Area
- Identify an area or areas that contribute(s) a significant amount of pollutants to the watershed.
- Consider where pollutants originate and how they reach surface and groundwater (e.g. suspended solids or through infiltration).
- An area or areas that contribute(s) more pollutants than others should be designated a critical area.
- A critical area may also include an area that is specifically valued by the community (i.e. the habitat of an endangered species, a riparian corridor, headwaters etc.).
- Narrow the geographic scope of your watershed project and focus on the critical area(s).
- Focusing on the critical area(s) within the watershed results in the greatest reduction of pollutants, saves time when conducting surveys and saves money.
Step 4: Survey the Watershed to Inventory Your Critical Area
- Decide on a method to use for inventorying your watershed
- A visual inventory involves walking or boating the watershed and recording and photographing characteristics in the critical area, allowing at least some committee members to become familiar with the watershed and identifying pollutants, sources and causes. During the winter season, a windshield survey can be especially helpful.
- Computer models can simulate scenarios to help identify pollutants, sources and causes if reliable data is available and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are helpful in creating maps that document data (consult technical committee).
- Public surveys document the perceptions and observations of people living within the critical area (or entire watershed).
- Conduct an inventory of your watershed
- Identify the most qualified person(s) or agency to lead the inventory, based on the decision of which method to use.
- Lead individuals should designate a uniform system for collecting data to ensure that data is collected consistently throughout the watershed.
- Store data in an organized format that can be easily accessed in future situations (i.e. computer database or labeled folders).
- Modify the list of known and suspected pollutants, sources and causes
- Data from the inventory will allow you to either eliminate suspected pollutants, sources and causes from the list or ade them to the list of known characteristics.
- You will also verify or eliminate known pollutants, sources and causes.
Step 5: Prioritize Pollutants, Sources, and Causes
- Determine a prioritizing process that is acceptable to both the steering and technical committees.
- Pollutants can be prioritized according to how many designated uses they impair.
- One designated use may be highly valued (i.e. public water supply), and therefore pollutants that impair this use (e.g. E. Coli) may be high priority.
- Determine the degree of contribution of sources and causes of each pollutant in relation to the other sources and causes.
- Addressing the causes of pollution sources in the priority order should achieve the greatest pollutant reduction while treating the fewest sources.
Step 6: Determine Objectives for Your Watershed Goals
- Review the initial goals you developed in step 2.
- Determine how you can change causal actions to reduce pollution from a source and protect or restore a designated land use (e.g. reduce impervious surface, stricter enforcement of permit regulations).
Step 7: Identify Systems of Best management Practices Needed
- Identify the Best Management Practices (BMPs) for each source and/or cause of pollution in your watershed.
- A Best Management Practice is a land management practice that a landowner implements to control sources or causes of pollution (e.g. vegetative control)
- Consult your technical committee and DEQ manuals to decide on BMPs.
- Combine your BMPs into systems.
- BMPs are usually applied as systems of practices because one practice rarely solves all water quality problems in a critical area, and the same practice will not work for all the sources and causes of a pollutant.
- Estimate the cost for your BMPs by consulting agencies with experience in implementing similar BMPs and designate a responsible party (i.e. road commission).
Step 8: Identify and Analyze Projects, Programs, and Ordinances
- Identify the local programs, projects, and ordinances that currently impact water quality.
- Evaluate them to see if they are consistent with the goals of your watershed plan.
- Identify opportunities to coordinate with or improve upon existing programs.