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Guiding Principles

EPA supports watershed approaches that aim to prevent pollution, achieve and sustain environmental improvements and meet other goals important to the community. Although watershed approaches may vary in terms of specific objectives, priorities, elements, timing, and resources, all should be based on the following guiding principles.

  1. Partnerships -- Those people most affected by management decisions are involved throughout and shape key decisions.

    This ensures that environmental objectives are well integrated with those for economic stability and other social and cultural goals. It also provides that the people who depend upon the natural resources within the watersheds are well informed of and participate in planning and implementation activities.

  2. Geographic Focus -- Activities are directed within specific geographic areas, typically the areas that drain to surface water bodies or that recharge or overlay ground waters or a combination of both.

  3. Sound Management Techniques based on Strong Science and Data -- Collectively, watershed stakeholders employ sound scientific data, tools, and techniques in an iterative decision making process. This includes:

    1. assessment and characterization of the natural resources and the communities that depend upon them;
    2. goal setting and identification of environmental objectives based on the condition or vulnerability of resources and the needs of the aquatic ecosystem and the people within the community;
    3. identification of priority problems;
    4. development of specific management options and action plans;
    5. implementation; and
    6. evaluation of effectiveness and revision of plans, as needed.

Because stakeholders work together, actions are based upon shared information and a common understanding of the roles, priorities, and responsibilities of all involved parties. Concerns about environmental justice are addressed and, when possible, pollution prevention techniques are adopted. The iterative nature of the watershed approach encourages partners to set goals and targets and to make maximum progress based on available information while continuing analysis and verification in areas where information is incomplete.

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