The environmental management of our water resources requires the integration of science and politics, defining problems and solutions for physical resources within a social context. Watershed planning is a term applied to the development of long-term strategies to reconcile a community's goals for water quality, ecological resources, and economic development. Presently, little guidance is available to local governments on how to devise a watershed protection strategy. This study outlines a general approach and refers to an ongoing watershed planning effort on the San Luis Rey River as a case study. The intent is to identify a range of issues to be considered in the development of any river and watershed plan.