CWP's Watershed Stewardship

Once a subwatershed is developed, communities still need to invest in ongoing watershed stewardship. The goals of watershed stewardship are to increase public awareness about watershed management efforts and to get participation in the process to ensure stewardship on their own property and homes.

There are six basic programs that watershed managers should consider to promote a greater watershed stewardship:

  • Watershed advocacy
  • Watershed education
  • Pollution prevention
  • Watershed maintenance
  • Indicator monitoring
  • Watershed restoration

Watershed Advocacy: Promoting watershed advocacy is important because it can lay the foundations for public support and greater watershed stewardship. One of the most important investments that can be made in a watershed is to seed and support a watershed management structure to carry out the long-term stewardship function. Often, grass roots watershed management organizations are uniquely prepared to handle many critical stewardship programs, given their watershed focus, volunteers, low cost and ability to reach into communities. Watershed organizations can be forceful advocates for better land management and can develop broad popular support and involvement for watershed protection. Local governments also have an important role to play in watershed advocacy. In many watersheds, local governments create or direct the watershed management structure.

Watershed Education: A basic premise of watershed stewardship is that we must learn two things - that we live in a watershed and that we understand how to live within it. The design of watershed education programs that create this awareness is of fundamental importance. Four types of watershed education programs are:

  • watershed awareness: raising basic watershed awareness using signs, storm drain stenciling, streamwalks, maps
  • personal stewardship: educating residents about the individual role they play in the watershed and communicating specific messages about positive and negative behaviors
  • professional training: educating the development community on how to apply the tools of watershed protection
  • watershed engagement: providing opportunities for the public to actively engage in watershed protection and restoration (S-71).

Pollution Prevention: Some watershed businesses may need special training on how to manage their operations to prevent pollution and thereby protect the watershed. In some cases, local or state government may have a regulatory responsibility to develop pollution prevention programs for certain businesses and industrial categories (e.g., under industrial or municipal NPDES permits).

Watershed Maintenance: Most watershed protection tools require maintenance if they are to properly function over the long run. Some of the most critical watershed "maintenance" functions include management of conservation areas and buffer networks, and maintenance of stormwater practices, septic systems, and sewer networks. Maintenance of the quality of watersheds may even require some reforestation and can also provide an opportunity for public involvement and education.

Watershed Indicator Monitoring: An ongoing stewardship responsibility is to monitor key indicators to track the health of the watershed. Public agencies should seriously consider monitoring to provide high quality and low cost indicator data. One form of monitoring stream quality is to assess the quantity and quality of aquatic biota. A more sophisticated form of monitoring is a hydrologic gaging station which can compute the stream velocity and measures pollutant levels.

Watershed Restoration: The last phase of watershed stewardship is to restore or at least rehabilitate streams that have been degraded by past development. Urban watershed restoration is an emerging art and science that seeks to remove pollutants and enhance habitat to restore urban streams. The urban watershed restoration process should include three main themes: stormwater retrofitting, source control through pollution prevention, and stream enhancement. In this stream restoration project, pools are created by log-drop structures which provide a habitat for salmon to spawn.

  Source: The Center for Watershed Planning -
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Contact: Hari Srinivas -