In our last post, we made brief mention of watershed management planning in the context of our discussion of the potentially harmful effects of blue-green algae. As we noted, watershed planning can be a way for those adversely impacted by toxic blue-green algae to address one possible cause of the toxic growth.
Watershed management planning, according to the EPA, can be used to address a wide variety of environmental issues stemming from nonpoint source pollution. The latter term refers to pollution which comes from diffuse sources as a result of rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. Nonpoint source pollution is a significant problem, and actually is more of an issue than source point pollution.
Watershed management planning is one way to deal with nonpoint source pollution of waters which involves a multi-step process requiring scientific and technological insight, the cooperation of stakeholders, and guidance with respect to legal requirements that often come into play.
One of the important laws involved in watershed management planning is the Clean Water Act, under which states are required to adopt water quality standards for the protection of public health, wildlife support and quality of life. These water quality standards are important in determining the need for and goals of watershed management planning. Water quality standards involve several important elements: the designated uses of a body of water; numeric criteria for water quality parameters; and policies aimed at protected the body of water from degradation by human activities.
Putting together a thorough and effective watershed management plan can be a challenge and can involve a lot of coordination and negotiation. For parties initiating the watershed planning process, it is important to clearly identify legal and regulatory requirements applying to the project and whether these will present any barriers to the project moving forward. Working with an experienced environmental law attorney can help ensure a watershed management plan achieves its goals.