River-basin and watershed management

Watershed management is the process of creating and implementing plans, programs, and projects to sustain and enhance watershed functions that affect the plant, animal, and human communities within a watershed boundary.[1] Features of a watershed that agencies seek to manage include water supply, water quality, drainage, stormwater runoff, water rights, and the overall planning and utilization of watersheds. Landowners, land use agencies, stormwater management experts, environmental specialists, water use purveyors and communities all play an integral part in the management of a watershed.

Table of Content

Sources of pollution

In an agricultural landscape, common contributors to water pollution are nutrients and sediment which typically enter stream systems after rainfall washes them off poorly managed agricultural fields, called surface runoff, or flushes them out of the soil through leaching. These types of pollutants are considered nonpoint source pollution because the exact point where the pollutant originated cannot be identified. Point source pollution originates a specific point of contamination such as if a manure containment structure fails and its contents enter the drainage system.

In urban landscapes, issues of soil loss through erosion, from construction sites for example, and nutrient enrichment from lawn fertilizers exist. Point source pollution, such as effluent from wastewater treatment plants and other industries play a much larger role in this setting. Also, the greatly increased area of impervious surfaces, such as concrete, combined with modern storm drainage systems, allows for water and the contaminants that it can carry with it to exit the urban landscape quickly and end up in the nearest stream.

Controlling pollution

In agricultural systems, common practices include the use of buffer strips, grassed waterways, the reestablishment of wetlands, and forms of sustainable agriculture practices such as conservation tillage, crop rotation and intercropping. After certain practices are installed, it is important to continually monitor these systems to ensure that they are working properly in terms of improving environmental quality.

In urban settings, managing areas to prevent soil loss and control stormwater flow are a few of the areas that receive attention. A few practices that are used to manage stormwater before it reaches a channel are retention ponds, filtering systems and wetlands. It is important that stormwater is given an opportunity to infiltrate so that the soil and vegetation can act as a "filter" before the water reaches nearby streams or lakes. In the case of soil erosion prevention, a few common practices include the use of silt fences, landscape fabric with grass seed and hydroseeding. The main objective in all cases is to slow water movement to prevent soil transport.

The roles of federal agencies

In the United States, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are responsible for work on the federal level. The NRCS is typically involved with the planning and continued monitoring of environmental improvement projects, while the EPA is generally responsible for compliance of several environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act. Assistance with watershed protection is also provided on a state level through Soil and Water conservation districts and other state-operated departments (e.g., departments of natural resources, departments of agriculture).

Beyond governmental support, other organizations and companies exist that provide support in various manners with the goal of watershed protection in mind as well.

Environmental law

Main article: Environmental lawEnvironmental laws often dictate the planning and actions that agencies take to manage watersheds. Some laws require that planning be done, others can be used to make a plan legally enforceable and others set out the ground rules for what can and cannot be done in development and planning. Most countries and states have their own laws regarding watershed management.

Those concerned about aquatic habitat protection have a right to participate in the laws and planning processes that affect aquatic habitats. By having a clear understanding of who to speak to and how to present the case for keeping our waterways clean a member of the public can become an effective watershed protection advocate.


This article has been taken from Wikipedia. To view the article in full, CLICK HERE


  1. ^ California Watershed Program




Coastal Zones

Related Articles and Publications

Advanced Tools and Models to Improve River Basin Management in Europe in the Context of Climate Change - Michael Finkel, Johannes Barth, Peter Grathwohl 
Publication Date: Aug 2010 - ISBN - 9781843393726

Groundwater Management in Large River Basins - Milan Dimkic, Heinz-Jurgen Brauch and Michael Kavanaugh
 Publication Date: Nov 2008 - ISBN - 9781843391906

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