Need for Watershed Approaches
Over the past 20 years, substantial reductions have been achieved in the discharge of pollutants into the nation's air, lakes, rivers, wetlands, estuaries, coastal waters, and ground water. These successes have been achieved primarily by controlling point sources of pollution and, in the case of ground water, preventing contamination from hazardous waste sites. While such sources continue to be an environmental threat, it is clear that potential causes of impairment of a waterbody are as varied as human activity itself. For example, besides discharges from industrial or municipal sources, our waters may be threatened by urban, agricultural, or other forms of polluted runoff; landscape modification; depleted or contaminated ground water; changes in flow; overharvesting of fish and other organisms; introduction of exotic species; bioaccumulation of toxics; and deposition or recycling of pollutants between air, land and water.
The federal laws that address these problems have tended to focus on particular sources, pollutants, or water uses and have not resulted in an integrated environmental management approach. Consequently, significant gaps exist in our efforts to protect watersheds from the cumulative impacts of a multitude of activities. Existing air, waste and pesticide management, water pollution prevention and control programs and other related natural resource programs are, however, excellent foundations on which to build a watershed approach.