EPA Releases Watershed Protection Handbook

EPA's Office of Water announced on Jan. 6 it has published a guide to watershed management as a tool in developing and implementing watershed plans. The draft Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters is aimed toward communities, watershed groups, and local, state, tribal and federal environmental agencies.

"This handbook will help anyone undertaking a watershed planning effort, but it should be particularly useful to persons working with impaired or threatened waters," said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles.

The 414-page handbook is designed to take the user through each step of the watershed planning process: watershed monitoring and assessment; community outreach; selection and application of available models; best management practices; effectiveness data bases; implementation; feedback and plan adjustment.

The handbook is intended to supplement existing watershed planning guides that have been developed by agencies, universities, and other nonprofit organizations. This handbook is more specific than other guides about quantifying existing pollutant loads, developing estimates of the load reductions required to meet water-quality standards, developing effective management measures, and tracking progress once the plan is implemented, agency officials said.

EPA is making this draft document widely available with the purpose of having it used and tested by a variety of watershed partnerships, whose advice will be considered in developing the final version. Comments should be addressed to watershedhandbook@epa.gov no later than June 30.

The draft handbook is available online at http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/watershed_handbook. A free copy can be ordered from the National Service Center for Environmental Publications by calling (800) 490-9198 or E-mail ncepimal@one.net. When ordering, refer to EPA document number EPA 841-B-05-005.

EPA's Watershed Academy sponsors monthly Webcasts. The next Webcast, scheduled for Jan. 18, will feature EPA's new draft watershed handbook. Registration for the Webcast will be available on a first-come/first-served basis and will open by Jan. 11. Each Webcast includes a Web-based slide presentation with a companion audio portion that can be accessed either by phone or by streaming audio broadcast. For more information visit http://www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/wacademy/webcasts.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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