U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Water 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,” says EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin 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 databases
  • implementation
  • feedback
  • plan adjustment
The handbook is intended to supplement existing watershed planning guides that have been developed by agencies, universities and other nonprofit organizations. It 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.

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, 2006.

The draft handbook is available online at www.epa.gov/owow/nps/watershed_handbook. You can order a free copy from the National Service Center for Environ-mental Publications by calling 800-490-9198 or sending an email to: ncepimal@one.net.