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Illustration of how to select management practices, beginning with possible management practices, using screening criteria to reject incompatible practices, and generating a list of candidate management practices for your watershed.

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Step 3: Finalize Goals and Identify Solutions (cont.)

Selecting Management Strategies
Once you have determined loading targets to meet your objectives, you’ll need to identify management measures and practices to help meet those targets. Management measures are groups of cost-effective management practices. Management practices are specific, site-based actions or structures to control pollutant sources.

Management measures can be implemented for various purposes, such as protecting water resources, aquatic wildlife habitat, and downstream areas from increased pollution and flood risks. Management measures can also help control the pollutant loads to receiving water resources by:

  • Reducing the availability of pollutants (such as reducing fertilizer, manure, and pesticide applications).
  • Reducing the pollutants generated (source reduction such as erosion control).
  • Slowing transport or delivery of pollutants.
  • Capturing pollutants before they reach the water body.
Management measures can also be used to guide the implementation of your watershed management program. They establish performance expectations, and in many cases they specify actions that can be taken to prevent or minimize nonpoint source pollution or other negative impacts associated with uncontrolled and untreated runoff. There are many types of individual management practices, from agricultural stream buffer setbacks to urban runoff control practice retrofits in developed areas, to homeowner education programs for on-site septic system maintenance. The NRCS National Handbook of Conservation PracticesExit EPA Disclaimer provides a list of practices applicable to rural and farming areas.

Management practices can be used to protect critical areas that might not have been listed among the valued watershed features identified earlier in the planning process. Vegetated areas next to a stream, lake, floodplain or forest, for instance, might not rank high among stakeholders’ lists of valued watershed features, but they filter pollution, serve as important habitat, help control flooding and can be critical sites for protection efforts. A critical area might be determined by major water uses such as water supply locations, recreational areas and fragile wildlife habitats. Your group could identify a number of areas throughout the watershed with vulnerable characteristics (e.g., unstable streambanks or shallow ground water). Your goal in planning management measures for such critical areas is first to recognize what they are and where they occur, and then to maintain their greatest benefits. More information on management measures and practices, including cost/benefit and effectiveness information is available in EPA’s series of management measure guidance documents on pollution related to agriculture, forestry, wetlands, hydromodification, urban areas and marinas. The documents can be downloaded at In addition, there are several Watershed Academy modules and Watershed Academy webcasts on various management practices.

Management practices can be categorized several different ways, such as source controls vs. treatment controls, structural controls vs. nonstructural controls, or point source controls vs. nonpoint source controls. For the purposes of this module, management practices are grouped into structural controls and nonstructural controls. Structural controls are defined as built facilities that typically capture runoff; treat it through chemical, physical, or biological means; and discharge the treated effluent to receiving waters, ground water, or conveyance systems.

Nonstructural practices usually involve changes in activities or behavior and focus on controlling pollutants at their source. Examples include developing and implementing erosion and sediment control plans, organizing public education campaigns and practicing good housekeeping at commercial and industrial businesses. Throughout this process, it is important to work and communicate with landowners, this will assist you in selecting practices that meet local cultural and economic needs.

The preliminary goals you have already set should target specific processes that can be managed, such as pollutant loading and riparian conditions. For example, if you set a goal of restoring aquatic habitat, that goal might be refined to include specific management measures. The new goal would appear this way: restore aquatic habitat in the upper main stem of the White Oak Creek (goal) by reducing agricultural sources of sediment (management measure) by 50 percent (measurable indicator) over a 3-year period (time frame). Specific practices to support this management measure might include things like increasing set-backs of agricultural fields from streams, increasing riparian vegetation, rotating grazing areas to avoid bare soils, terraces, herbaceous wind barriers.

Using screening criteria, you’ll evaluate potential management strategies (a single management practice or multiple practices used in combination) to narrow them down to the most promising options. The screening criteria are based on factors such as pollutant reduction efficiencies, legal requirements and physical constraints.

Selecting management strategies also helps to satisfy element c of the section 319 guidelines — describe management measures and targeted critical areas.

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Section 25 of 43