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Other Watershed Management Information


The Rouge Project has provided a unique opportunity for a watershed-wide approach to restoring and protecting an urban river system by using a cooperative, locally-based approach to pollution control. The Project has learned that the use of the watershed approach has emerged as the most cost-effective and logical approach to water resource management. There is a clear inter-relationship of the pollution sources within a watershed that demands an inter-related approach to a solution. Volumes have been written on watershed approach and its strengths and weaknesses. That information will not be summarized here. Suffice it to say use of the watershed approach has several major benefits.

The following is a brief discussion of certain other watershed management information that may be of use to the reader. The material is categorized by information on the Rouge Project, then the State of Michigan and then the USEPA.

Rouge Project
The Rouge Project has developed two documents that provide additional information on the use of the watershed approach in restoring urban rivers. The first of these is titled Background Information on the Watershed Management Approach and the tie to the Development of TMDLs. As stated above, the use of the watershed approach has emerged as the most cost-effective and logical approach to water resource management. There is a clear inter-relationship of the pollution sources within a watershed that demands an inter-related approach to a solution. The heart of the success of a watershed protection and/or restoration effort is the development of a sound watershed management plan for a specific watershed.

Nationally, the minimum elements of a watershed management plan have not been defined through any consensus fashion to date. Those elements may emerge over time as more experience is gained in implementing the watershed approach. The most definitive effort to define the steps needed to address degraded uses was by the USEPA's Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) on the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Program. In succinct summary, the TMDL FAC stated that the ultimate goal is the expeditious attainment of water quality standards including designated uses. They addressed all of the factors needed to achieve water quality standards including the physical, chemical and biological elements. They recognized there may be less certainty about how to restore water quality and uses in a waterbody and that an iterative approach will assure progress toward water quality standard attainment.

The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project (Rouge Project) working with the 48 communities and 3 Counties in the Rouge Watershed has explored the concept of developing and implementing watershed management plans that will fulfill the elements of an approvable TMDL. Therefore, upon approval of the watershed management plan by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and EPA, the plan will constitute an approved TMDL. This approach is presented in Background Information on the Watershed Management Approach and the tie to the Development of TMDLs.

The second document is titled Elements of a Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan for the Restoration of the Rouge River. Nationally, the minimum elements of a watershed management plan have not been defined through any consensus fashion to date. Those elements may emerge over time as more experience is gained in implementing the watershed approach. The Rouge Project developed its list of elements for discussion with the 48 communities and 3 counties in the watershed. It is important to note there is no one methodology to follow in developing watershed management plans. Instead, there are a series of choices to reach the desired endpoint. The elements discussed in the above document are meant to depict the topics that should be considered in the development of a comprehensive watershed management plan. They are not meant to prescribe a cookbook approach. A watershed plan is a framework for how, where and when management tools will be applied. Innovation is encouraged to reach the goals for restoring/protecting watersheds. Note that the terms "watershed" and "subwatershed" can be used interchangeably. In some cases it may make sense to go to even smaller watersheds, below the subwatershed level, for appropriate watershed management decisions.

In defining the elements of a watershed management plan it must always be kept in mind the need to address all sources of pollution and all of the other stressors (i.e. lack of habitat, flow variability, etc.) that prevent the attainment of water quality standards.

For additional information on this subject, see the paper titled Background Information on the Watershed Management Approach and the tie to the Development of TMDLs.

State of Michigan Watershed Information
The following is reproduced from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's "Michigan Watershed Homepage".

Watershed Management Definition: Watershed Management is an iterative process of integrated decision-making regarding uses and modifications of lands and waters within a watershed. This process provides a chance for stakeholders to balance diverse goals and uses for environmental resources, and to consider how their cumulative actions may affect long-term sustainability of these resources. The Guiding Principles of the process are Partnerships, Geographic Focus, & Sound Management (strong science & data).

Human modifications of lands and waters directly alter delivery of water, sediments, and nutrients, and thus fundamentally alter aquatic systems. People have varying goals and values relative to uses of local land and water resources. Watershed management provides a framework for integrated decision-making, where we strive to: (1) assess the nature and status of the watershed ecosystem; (2) define short-term and long-term goals for the system; (3) determine objectives and actions needed to achieve selected goals; (4) assess both benefits and costs of each action; (5) implement desired actions; (6) evaluate the effects actions and progress toward goals; and (7) re-evaluate goals and objectives as part of an iterative process.

As a form of ecosystem management, watershed management encompasses the entire watershed system, from uplands and headwaters, to floodplain wetlands and river channels. It focuses on the processing of energy and materials (water, sediments, nutrients, and toxics) downslope through this system. Of principle concern is management of the basin's water budget, that is the routing of precipitation through the pathways of evaporation, infiltration, and overland flow. This routing of groundwater and overland flow defines the delivery patterns to particular streams, lakes, and wetlands; and largely shapes the nature of these aquatic systems.

Watershed management requires use of the social, ecological, and economic sciences. Common goals for land and water resources must be developed among people of diverse social backgrounds and values. An understanding of the structure and function--historical and current--of the watershed system is required, so that the ecological effects of various alternative actions can be considered. The decision process also must weigh the economic benefits and costs of alternative actions, and blend current market dynamics with considerations of long-term sustainability of the ecosystem.

The MDEQ has developed a document titled "Developing a Watershed Management Plan for Water Quality: An Introductory Guide". This document is available through their web site listed below.

The MDEQ has a great deal of information on their approach to watershed management presented on their Michigan Watershed Homepage.

USEPA Watershed Information
The following is quoted from the USEPA web site on use of the watershed approach:

"A Watershed Protection Approach is a strategy for effectively protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems and protecting human health. This strategy has as its premise that many water quality and ecosystem problems are best solved at the watershed level rather than at the individual waterbody or discharger level. Major features of a Watershed Protection Approach are: targeting priority problems, promoting a high level of stakeholder involvement, integrated solutions that make use of the expertise and authority of multiple agencies, and measuring success through monitoring and other data gathering."

The USEPA web site contains the following categories of information:

USEPA's Watershed Approach: An Introduction
List of Watershed Projects/Case Studies
Watershed Tools

The USEPA web site can be accessed by clicking on http://www.epa.gov/OWOW/watershed/index2.html

Other Information
An excellent source of information on watershed management is the Center for Watershed Protection. Founded in 1992, the Center for Watershed Protection works with local, state, and federal governmental agencies, environmental consulting firms, watershed organizations, and the general public to provide objective and scientifically sound information on effective techniques to protect and restore urban watersheds. The Center also acts as a technical resource for local and state governments around the country to develop more effective urban stormwater and watershed protection programs.


Last Updated: 4/18/02

Please address all comments and suggestions about the contents of this Web page to DOEHelp@co.wayne.mi.us.

The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project is funded, in part, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grants #XP995743-01, -02, -03, -04, -05, -06, -07, -08, -09 and C-264000-01.