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Frequently Asked Questions About the Watershed Approach

How can the watershed approach address both ground water and surface water protection?

When delineating geographic management units, boundaries should be constructed to accommodate hydrologic connections and processes and address the priority problems at hand. So, particular management areas may vary depending on the priority problems to be addressed. For example, when ground water contributes significantly to surface water flow, the management unit should include the ground water recharge area. When the vulnerability of drinking water to contamination is of primary concern, then the drinking water source (e.g., reservoir or wellhead protection area) should be the area upon which attention is focused. When the protection of an aquifer is of primary concern, the management area should include the overlaying or recharging area and recognize impacts upon surface water. Interesting research is now underway in the State of Florida to delineate hydrogeological watersheds that accurately depict ground and surface water connections. Similarly, the US Army Corps of Engineers has developed new techniques for hydrogeomorphic analyses related to wetlands.

How does the watershed approach relate to other programs with similar characteristics, such as the National Estuary Program and Source Water Protection? And, how does the NPDES watershed strategy relate to the watershed approach?

States and tribes may want to build on the successes of geographically-focused programs and increasingly integrate assessments, sort out and establish joint priorities, and coordinate actions among programs while making a transition to the watershed approach. Whether a jurisdiction starts with a source water protection program like Wellhead Protection, a Wetlands Conservation Plan, a National Estuary Program , a NPDES watershed strategy or other water resource, place-based strategy, EPA will support them in moving to an even more comprehensive approach to protecting water resources. These more targeted programs can provide the community roots for broader watershed approaches. Ultimately, we hope to see comprehensive, jurisdiction-wide, and when appropriate cross-jurisdiction, watershed approaches that involve all appropriate agency staff working with local stakeholders while setting goals, establishing priorities, and implementing integrated and effective solutions.

What is the relationship between the watershed approach and community-based environmental protection?

Community-based environmental protection is an iterative approach in which diverse stakeholders strive to achieve environmental objectives. Typically it includes:

The watershed approach is community-based environmental protection using watershed or hydrologic boundaries to define the problem area. In fact, the momentum and success of the watershed approach and its "predecessors," the National Estuary Program, Great Water Bodies programs, and the Clean Lakes Program, strongly influenced the development of EPA's community-based environmental protection approach.

How does the watershed approach relate to the National Environmental Performance Partnership System and Performance Partnerships Grants?

States that choose to adopt the National Environmental Performance Partnership System could choose to set water quality protection goals and priorities and organize their work on a watershed basis. Watershed plans could be incorporated or referenced in the required Environmental Performance Agreements.

Through Performance Partnership Grants (PPGs), states and tribes can combine funding from eligible grants to target high priority problems and address multimedia problems within their watersheds. States and tribes that combine categorical grants into PPGs must continue to address the core program requirements which those grants are meant to support. A final approved PPG will be the result of negotiations between the state or tribe and its EPA Regional office.

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