EPA 9-Point Watershed-Based Plans

Northeast Aquatic Research develops watershed plans that are eligible for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Under the 1972 Clean Water Act, states are required to produce a list of impaired waterbodies, which do not meet the state standards for water quality. For these impaired waters, states must determine the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a TMDL “specifies the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards and allocates pollutant loadings among point and nonpoint pollutant sources.”

TMDLs are helpful for identifying point-source pollution, which the EPA defines as “any single identifiable source of pollution from which pollutants are discharged, such as a pipe, ditch, ship or factory smokestack” . However, TMDLs are not specific enough to identify and remedy nonpoint sources of pollution, which are multiple diffuse sources of nutrients that enter the lake through stormwater runoff or snowmelt. Nonpoint sources are the primary cause of nutrient loading in many lakes so it is important to identify and correct these problems.

Due to the shortcomings of TMDLs, the EPA is now shifting its focus to 9-point watershed-based plans, which focus more on nonpoint source pollution and have the ultimate goal of removing lakes from states’ lists of impaired waterbodies.

The EPA currently provides funding to states to allocate to lakes on their ‘impaired waterbodies’ list to reduce nonpoint source pollution. However, before an impaired waterbody can receive funding, it much produce a 9-point watershed based plan which identifies the sources of pollution and outlines the measures that must be completed to reduce the nutrient load entering the lake from the watershed.

EPA Criteria for the 9 Minimum Elements of Successful Watershed Plans:

  1. Identify causes and sources of pollution
  2. Estimate load reductions expected
  3. Describe management measures and targeted critical areas
  4. Estimate technical and financial assistance needed
  5. Develop an information and education component
  6. Develop a project schedule
  7. Describe interim, measurable milestones
  8. Identify indicators to measure progress
  9. Develop a monitoring component

More information about watershed planning can be found in the following EPA publication: EPA Watershed Planning

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