Environmental protection programs in the United States have successfully improved water quality during the last quarter century, yet, many challenges remain. The most recent national water quality inventory shows that, as of 1994, nearly 40 percent of surveyed waters in the US remain too polluted for fishing, swimming and other uses. The leading causes of impairment found in the survey include silt, sewage, disease-causing bacteria, fertilizer, toxic metals, oil and grease.
Many public and private organizations are joining forces and creating multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional partnerships to focus on these problems, community by community and watershed by watershed. These watershed approaches are likely to result in significant restoration, maintenance and protection of water resources in the United States. Supporting them is a high priority for EPA's national water program.
This publication explains EPA's vision for watershed approaches and builds upon the Office of Water Watershed Protection Approach Framework, endorsed by senior EPA managers in 1991. It emphasizes the role EPA envisions for states and tribes. It also reflects the high priority that individual Office of Water programs have put on developing and supporting comprehensive state and tribal watershed approach strategies that actively involve public and private interests at all levels to achieve environmental protection.