PLAN OF ACTION
After you’ve diagnosed the general health of your watershed (and its streams and wetlands), you should have an idea of the problems you need to address. If not, more research may be needed—for example, more water quality information both upstream and downstream of suspected pollution sources, information on sediment loads after heavy storms, or an in-depth analysis of a stream or wetland ecosystem.
Developing a conservation plan
Written Watershed Management (or Conservation) Plans take many different forms. Other organizations have programs and plans that can help you. Model plans abound!
- The EPA has developed a watershed handbook.
- The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has developed an annual report and ‘scorecard’ that measures progress in cleaning up the bay.
- The Wappinger Creek Watershed: Natural Resources Management Plan identifies specific objectives for achieving water quality goals and site-specific information about how these problems can be addressed.
Check the websites of other organizations for watershed plans that are available for your review.
Make sure your plan is clearly organized so it’s easy to use. Make it as short and to the point as possible. Use photos, maps and other illustrations.
Publicize the watershed plan well.
Provide a physical description of the watershed (including land, surface water and groundwater) and the benefits it provides for your community. Using the watershed
conditions described in the Diagnosis section, evaluate the watershed’s health. Identify specific activities, land use practices, pollution sources, and sites that contribute to specific declines in watershed health. Before you come up with a plan to protect your watershed, you need to know which problems are most critical, and which ones you want to address.
Identify specific problems, and describe what it would take to solve each one.
Written plan + action
Whatever form you choose, a written plan or report is only half the process. To keep it from floating aimlessly, include a plan of action. Give the plan a direction, and grab the oars.
What will you do in your community to follow up, monitor and enforce the actions you recommend in the written plan?
The backing of an active community watershed group is critical to long-term watershed protection success.
Why do most watershed plans sit on a shelf and collect dust? A few reasons:
- they are not “owned” by a community with a strong support group committed to long term water protection
- they don’t include a compelling plan of action
- they lack teeth (regulatory or other) and other practical means for solving specific problems
Voluntary participation generally does not work for solving some water problems–for example, water quality– unless everyone agrees to join in. Consider a bathtub with six faucets, all streaming clear water in to the tub from six different sources. If just one faucet operator is allowed to add red dye to one water source the result is everyone’s water will be stained red.
Keep in mind the mission of the watershed group that is backing the plan.
Base your recommendations for solutions to watershed problems on science. For example, cleaning up a contaminant requires identifying its source as well as clean-up technology that has been proven to work in cleaning it up. Avoid prematurely limiting the range of protective options you are considering. Once you understand what is needed to correct a watershed problem, you can focus on how to make that “solution” happen in your community.
Consider all options, including restoration, that would solve the problem before you choose what is most
likely to work in your situation. Some conditions may be solved by adjusting land use practices, instating buffers, restoring degraded stream banks and floodplains, or protecting vulnerable resources before they are contaminated or lost.
If your watershed is in good health, the watershed plan can be used to keep it that way by identifying why it’s healthy, and how the characteristics that keep it healthy should best be maintained.
- describe watershed health
- identify specific watershed problems
- identify the necessary steps/options, based on science, for solving each problem
- describe obstacles to addressing each problem and how they can be overcome
- identify laws, regulations, local zoning, etc. that will help achieve your goals
- describe how progress will be measured for each watershed problem over time
- identify needs: more information, enforcement, legal action, local regulations
- maintain high visibility: publicize watershed plan, problems, solutions, and necessary action.
Sustaining the watershed conservation effort
The success of all of your hard work and investment of time and dollars depends on how well you can sustain local support and interest in your community’s water protection efforts into the future—indefinitely.
You have a better chance of sustaining public support if you can regularly measure progress in solving specific, local watershed problems. Focus on publicizing a few measurable problems that make the most difference to the watershed’s health. Keep the results in front of the public.
As long as we have water, we will need to protect it. Protection will always be subject to new threats, problems, and issues. Here are a few things you can do; but be creative and add your own ideas as well.
1. Build watershed protection into your community so it’s an ongoing effort, not just a project.
2. Clearly publicize how citizens can be involved; give volunteers specific things to do and offer a range of options (small task/large task, short term/ long term time commitment for tasks, “background” tasks / tasks with public visibility, etc.)
3. Celebrate clean and abundant water in your community. Arrange festivals, booths at community events, contests, games, water walks and canoe or kayak trails, nature walks, water activities for kids.
4. Track measurable annual progress toward solving the watershed problems identified in the watershed plan. Publicize the results.