Clean and plentiful waters are needed to support local economies, provide recreational opportunities, sustain fish and wildlife habitats, and enrich our everyday experiences. New York State’s water resources - rivers and streams, lakes and reservoirs, estuaries, Great Lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound - all contribute to our quality of life. Planning on a watershed scale allows communities to effectively and comprehensively address water quality and quantity issues throughout their watershed, while balancing the need for economic growth and development. All watersheds and the communities within them experience some level of disturbance over time; a resilient watershed is able to recover quickly and in some cases may even benefit from minor disturbances. Watershed planning and associated restoration projects can improve watershed health and resilience to both environmental and human disturbances. The NYS DOS Office of Planning, Development and Community Infrastructure provides assistance in the development and implementation of watershed management plans.
Water quality within a watershed may be affected by a variety of individual actions, land uses, and regional activities. Water quality and quantity are also affected by short-term weather events and longer-term climate changes. While communities can and should address their water quality and quantity problems individually, many problems are best addressed on a watershed scale, especially where watersheds cross political boundaries and involve more than one community.
The watershed planning and protection approach recognizes the need to address not only the individual water resources within any given watershed, but all the land from which the water drains to these waterbodies. It allows communities to integrate water and land resource protection and restoration with growth management at the local and regional level, balancing environmental and economic factors to encourage a healthier, more resilient watershed.
Watershed Planning Framework
Watershed plans must ensure that the causes and sources of nonpoint source pollution are identified, that key stakeholders are involved in the planning process, and that restoration and protection strategies are identified that will address the water quality concerns.
Discover the Major Components of a Watershed Plan.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPF) provides a framework for developing watershed-based plans consisting of nine elements intended to ensure that the contributing causes and sources of nonpoint source pollution are identified, that key stakeholders are involved in the planning process, and that restoration and protection strategies are identified that will address the water quality concerns.
Learn about 9 Element Watershed Plans.
Watershed Management Plans
Watershed Management Plans enable communities to:
- Establish a mechanism for long-term watershed management, often through the creation of an intermunicipal watershed organization;
- Describe and understand existing water quality and watershed conditions, current impairments and anticipated threats to water quality, and recognize the key problems and opportunities in the watershed;
- Identify and describe priority actions needed to address water quality impairments or threats;
- Create an implementation strategy identifying stakeholder roles and the financial and institutional resources needed to undertake these priorities;
- Develop a means to measure success, track implementation, and monitor performance; and
- Network with other communities, agencies and organizations with experience in the successful preparation and implementation of watershed management plans.
Read existing watershed plans.
Water Resources Management Guidance
Watershed planning, stakeholder involvement, water quality assessment & plan components.
Watershed Plans: Protecting and Restoring Water Quality Guidebook
Process for communities to create a watershed plan to protect & improve water quality.
Watershed Plans: Protecting and Restoring Water Quality Video.
Highlights of communities benefitting from watershed planning.
Introduction to Watershed Planning
Watershed planning, including EPA’s Minimum Elements of Successful Watershed Plans.
DOS grants and other opportunities to help create sustainable & vibrant communities.