Watershed Planning

In a Nutshell

A watershed is the area of land surrounding a body of water that contributes run off to it. The goal of watershed planning is to ensure that development within a watershed does not drastically alter the runoff to the body of water. Effective watershed planning protects the water supply, minimizes erosion and minimizes the environmental impact of development. Watershed planning can considerably reduce a community's environmental impact and improve water quality.

Practical Solution

The “How To”The “How To”

The EPA Watershed website has a lot of good information on watersheds, including the Watershed Academy, state water quality assessments and find your watershed. The Watershed Academy in particular has good information if you are just starting your search on the topic of watersheds. Adopt Your Watershed is an online database of watershed groups throughout the United States. Links are provides to these groups and you can help protect the watershed(s) nearest you!

The outline for watershed development is particularly helpful. The elements of watershed development are:

  1. Identity stakeholders
  2. Establish goals and objectives
  3. Inventory watershed resources and conditions
  4. Assess water body/watershed problems
  5. Recommend objectives and management practices for prevention and remediation
  6. Develop effective action plan
  7. Implement plan and monitor its success

This outline is an excellent overview of the watershed planning process. The Handbook for Developing Watershed PLans to Restore and Protect Our Waters has information relevant to almost every aspect and stage of watershed development. The document is intended for anyone looking to develop a watershed, but it is particularly well suited for watersheds that are already significantly damaged. In addition to an excellent overview of the subject matter, the handbook also has a lot of useful information concerning watershed modeling, data collection and interpretation and environmental targets. East-West Gateway's Watershed webpage is another good source for information.

The EPA's A Quick Guide to Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters is an excellent resource for people looking for an easy guide for watershed planning.

Planning & ZoningPlanning & Zoning

The EPA's page on Laws, Regulations, Treaties (Watersheds) has links to many of the relevant laws for watershed development. The Clean Water Act of 1977 jumpstarted watershed development with its regulations concerning water quality. The Guidance for Management of Section 205 (j) (l) and Section 604 (b) regulates how the Federal government hands out grants for watershed development.

Lake County, Illinois Watershed Development Ordiance sets "the minimum requiremnts for the stormwater management aspects of development in Lake County." These ordinances provide a good example of watershed development ordinances at the local level.

Dollars & CentsDollars & Cents

This article titled The Economics of Watershed Protection analyzes the benefits of various watershed protection tools. The article claims that existing research, while incomplete, shows that watershed planning if conducted properly can result in a "positive or atleast neutral economic effect." Page nine of the document has a table which lists the economic impact of the various tools analyzed.

Measuring SuccessMeasuring Success

OneSTL is measuring two performance indicators that will help determine the success of watershed planning in the region. The first indicator is water quality. OneSTL will be measuring water quality has a percentage of streams, rivers and lakes that polluted. The desired trend is for the percentage to go down. The other indicator is the percentage of watersheds with a current plan. The design trend is for the percentage to go down.

Case StudiesCase Studies

Deer Creek Watershed Alliance

  • Contact

    Karla G. Wilson
    Manager of the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance


    The Deer Creek Watershed Alliance is a project of Missouri Botanical Garden. Multiple project partners include Metropolitan Sewer District, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, USEPA Region 7, cities in the watershed, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and American Society of Civil Engineers.

    Deer Creek Watershed drains approximately 37 square miles (23,500) of St. Louis County. Orginating in the northwest in Creve Coeur near Highway 270 and Olive, Deer Creek flows in a southeasterly direction approximately 10.76 miles before it enters the River des Peres at Maplewood, near Highway 44 and McCausland.

    The Deer Creek Watershed plan is available online. Missouri Botanical Garden maintains a website on Deer Creek.

    Cost $0

Highland Silver Lake Watershed

  • Contact

    Mr. Mark Rosen
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    The Highland Silver Lake Watershed Plan estabished long-term goals, described objectives to meet those goals, and incorporated the nine components of watershe planning required by the EPA. This use of effective planning has given the City of Highland toe opportunity to apply for grant funding for future lake and watershed restoration projects. Some of the goals that came out of this plan include improving water quality; reducing sediment and nutrient loads; and improving public drinking water.

    Cost $0
    Lessons Learned

    According to Mark Rosen, there are two main lessons to learn from the Silver Lake Watershed Plan. The first is the need to partner with as many organizations and people as you need to in the early stages of planning. This allows for greater colloboration and results in a better plan. The second is to secure direct and consistent funding. Without funding, a plan cannot move forward.

Lower Meramec Watershed Plan

  • Contact

    Mr. David Wilson
    Senior Manager of Environment and Community Planning
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    The Lower Meramec Watershed Plan was developed through a collaborative effort between East-West Gateway, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, Metropolitan Sewer District, Missouri American Water, The Open Space Council, Meramec River Tributary Alliance, and the Cities of Ballwin, Ellisville, Eureka, Des Peres, Kirkwood, Manchester, Pacific, Valley Park, and Wildwood.

    The Lower Meramec Watershed runs from Sullivan, Missouri, through the southern part of the St. Louis Metropolitan area and enters the Mississippi River near the City of Arnold. The emphasis on this watershed planning effort is the public lands and parks associated with the Lower Meramec. Communities can use parks and public lands to reduce costs for storm water management, flood control, transportation and other forms of built infrastructure. By properly planning and managing urban and rural areas, cities and counties can costs, as well as protect biological diversity and water quality while serving as a place for recreation and community well being.

    More information is available on the Lower Meramec Watershed website.

    Cost $0