Classifying and Prioritizing Watersheds for Protection and Restoration

EPA Grant Number: R830593
Title: Classifying and Prioritizing Watersheds for Protection and Restoration
Investigators: Brooks, Robert P. , Constantz, George D. , Patil, G. P.
Institution: Pennsylvania State University , Canaan Valley Institute
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: January 6, 2003 through June 30, 2005
Project Amount: $875,000
RFA: Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , Water


Natural resource managers need to be able to put watersheds into categories for several reasons, including identifying reference conditions, understanding the types of environmental degradation, designing monitoring studies, and narrowing the restoration options. For example, a defensible "bundling" of watersheds according to their characteristics, problems, and restoration feasibilities may allow "off-the-shelf" TMDL plans.


We will develop, validate, and apply a hierarchical, geographically-independent classification of watersheds based on pre-existing environmental data. Although focused on the Mid-Atlantic Highlands, our scheme will be useful anywhere. Our project has three major parts. (1) Using multivariate statistics, we will build a Characterization Model to classify watersheds based on their natural features and observed stressors. (2) Using linear ordering and echelon analysis, we will build a Prioritization Model to classify basins according to disturbance, susceptibility to impairment, and feasibility of restoration, where the last includes technical and economic measures. Both the Characterization and Prioritization models will be validated with in-stream and terrestrial biotic data sets (e.g., IBIs). (3) We will compare the results of our taxonomies of watershed types and priorities to the findings of other classifications.

Expected Results:

Products include synoptic GIS coverages of environmental data for the Mid-Atlantic Highlands, a model graphical and statistical process for classifying watersheds by their features and restoration priorities, a taxonomy of Mid-Atlantic watersheds, and a set of monitoring and restoration options for each watershed class that can assist managers in the development and implementation of TMDL plans.

Supplemental Keywords:

watershed, TMDL, characterization, prioritization, biological integrity, Mid-Atlantic Highlands, multiscale regional assessment, multiscale raster map analysis, cellular geospatial surface structure, echelon analysis, poset linearization and prioritization, Hasse diagrams., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Monitoring/Modeling, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Watersheds, ecosystem modeling, watershed classification, wetlands, aquatic ecosystem, monitoring, watershed, biodiversity, natural resource management, conservation, TMDL, integrated watershed model, aquatic ecosystems, ecosystem restoration, ecological indicators, ecology assessment models, watershed assessment, ecological models, watershed restoration

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003
  • 2004
  • Final