Watershed management is the study of the relevant characteristics of a watershed aimed at the sustainable distribution of its resources and 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. 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 surveyors and communities all play an integral part in the management of a watershed.
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. Such pollutants remain a major issue for water ways because the difficulty to control their sources hinders any attempt to limit the pollution. Point source pollution originates a specific point of contamination such as if a manure containment structure fails and its contents enter the drainage system or when a factory discharges its waste directly into a body of water using a pipe.
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 waste water 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.
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 second World Water Forum held in The Hague in March 2000 raised some controversies that exposed the multilateral nature and imbalance in the demand and supply management of freshwater. While donor organisations, private and government institutions backed by the World Bank, believe that freshwater should be governed as an economic good by appropriate pricing, NGOs however, held that freshwater resources should be seen as a social good. The concept of network governance where all stakeholders form partnerships and voluntarily share ideas towards forging a common vision can be used to resolve this clash of opinion in freshwater management. Also, the implementation of any common vision presents a new role for NGOs because of their unique capabilities in local community coordination, thus making them a valuable partner in network governance.
Watersheds replicate this multilateral terrain with private industries and local communities interconnected by a common watershed. Although these groups share a common ecological space that could transcend state borders, their interests, knowledge and use of resources within the watershed are mostly disproportionate and divergent, resulting to the activities of a specific group adversely impacting on other groups. Classic examples being the Minamata Bay poisoning that occurred from 1932 to 1968, killing over 1784 individuals and the Wabigoon River incidence of 1962. Furthermore, while some knowledgeable groups are shifting from efficient water resource exploitation to efficient utilization, net gain for the watershed ecology could be lost when other groups seizes the opportunity to exploit more resources. This ‘gap’ in cooperative communication among multilateral stakeholders within an interconnected watershed, even with the likely presence of the usually reactive and political boundary-constraint state regulations, makes it necessary for the institutionalisation of an ecological-scale cooperative network of stakeholders. This concept supports an integrated management style for interconnected natural resources; resonating strongly with the Integrated Water Resources Management system proposed by Global Water Partnership.
Moreover, the need to create partnerships between donor organisations, private and government institutions and community representatives like NGOs in watersheds is to enhance an ‘organisational society’ among stakeholders. This posits a type of public-private partnership, commonly referred to as Type II partnership, which essentially brings together stakeholders that share a common watershed under a voluntary, idea sharing and collectively agreed vision aimed at granting mutual benefits to all stakeholders. Also, it explicates the concept of network governance, which is ‘..the only alternative for collective action’, requiring government to rescale its role in decision making and collaborate with other stakeholders on a level playing field rather than in an administrative or hierarchical manner.
Several riparian states have adopted this concept in managing the increasingly scarce resources of watersheds. These include, the nine Rhine states, with a common vision of pollution control, the Lake Chad and river Nile Basins, whose common vision is to ensure environmental sustainability. As a partner in the commonly shared vision, NGOs has adopted a new role in operationalising the implementation of regional watershed management policies at the local level. For instance, essential local coordination and education are areas where the services of NGOs have been effective. This makes NGOs the ‘nuclei’ for a successful watershed management.
Environmental 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 whom 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.
- California Watershed Program
- Anderson, Scott D.  "Watershed Management and Nonpoint Source Pollution: The Massachusetts Approach." Originally published in the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review. 1999.
- Oweyegha-Afunaduula, F.C., I. Afunaduula and M. Balunywa (2003). NGO-sing the Nile Basin Initiative: a myth or reality? Paper at 3rd World Water Forum, Japan, March 2003
- Evans J: Environmental governance (2011),Routledge, Chapter 4.
- 4. Mark L, Mark S, John T and Mihriye M (2002); Watershed Partnerships and the Emergence of Collective Action Institutions American Journal of Political Science, Volume 46 No.1 Page 148-163. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088419
- Ewalt, J. G. 2001. Theories of Governance and New Public Management: Links to Understanding Welfare Policy Implementation. Paper Presented at the Annual Conference of the American Society for Public Administration. Also available at: http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/aspa/unpan000563.pdf.
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- "Nile Basin Initiative".
- 7. Prabhakar K, Lavanya K, and Papa Rao A (2010); NGOs and Farmers Participation in Watershed Development Programme in Prakasam District, Asia-Pacific Journal of Social Science, Volume II (1) Pages173-182. Also available at: http://www.socialsciences-ejournal.org/3.9.%20Prabhakar.pdf.
- 2. Evans J: Environmental governance (2011),Routledge, Chapter 4.
B.C. GUIDE TO WATERSHED LAW AND PLANNING 
- Erickson, J.D., Messner, F. and I. Ring, eds. (2007). Ecological Economics of Sustainable Watershed Management. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
- Sabatier, P. A. (2005). Swimming Upstream: Collaborative Approaches to Watershed Management. The MIT Press.
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||This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (January 2011)|
- Watershed Central
- Watershed Wiki
- Watershed Management Council
- British Columbia guide to watershed law and planning
- The Center for Watershed Protection
- Climate Change Adaptation in Drought-prone areas - Watershed Organization Trust(WOTR)
- Chesapeake Bay Program
- The United States Natural Resources Conservation Service
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Federal Funds database
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Non-point pollution
- University of Hawaii - Water pollution
- Water Planning Tools - Australia
- Water Evaluation And Planning system (WEAP)
- Alberta's Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils