Why is Watershed Planning Important?
No matter where we live or work, we are in a watershed teeming with unique, inter-related natural processes. These natural forces help shape the watershed landscape, its water quality, and—in turn—our lives. Each watershed has unique living and nonliving components that interact, with one element responding to the action or change of another. Knowing your watershed means coming to learn the natural processes working within the watershed boundaries.
Careful watershed planning does more than just protect the water and the plants and animals that actually live in the water. It can help protect the physical, chemical, and biological components of your watershed, or restore those that have already been degraded. A watershed provides an integrating context for solving a multitude of waste and water problems. Watershed plans can be used to help attain or maintain water quality standards to protect the flora and fauna that make up carefully balanced ecosystems, and to restore ecosystems whose balance has been disturbed or destroyed.
Because watersheds are defined by natural hydrology, they represent the most logical basis for managing water resources. The resource becomes the focal point, and managers are able to gain a more complete understanding of overall conditions in an area and the stressors that affect those conditions. Watershed planning provides a context for integration, by using practical, tangible management units that people understand, focusing and coordinating efforts, and finding common ground and meeting multiple needs. Additionally, this process yields better management by generating ecologically based, innovative, cost-effective solutions, forging stronger working relationships, and supporting consistent, continuous management of the resource.