Land drawing demonstrating watershed approach for the management of water resources

Forestry

Percolation source: "Figure 1. The Area Hydrologically Defined by a Watershed is Affected by Many Processes and Issues. A 'Watershed Approach' Coordinates Their Management," in Protecting and Restoring America's Watersheds, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC, June 2001

since the mid-nineteenth century. In the 1990s, however, some politicians proposed legislation to change the Clean Water Act, giving more authority to the states and more weight to economic considerations. These politicians and their supporters (coalitions of industry, agriculture, and state and local governments) argue that enough has been accomplished and that now it is time to make the law more flexible. They claim that the huge cost of maintaining clean water risks making the United States noncompetitive in the international market. Government regulations, they think, demand more than is necessary to maintain drinkable water.

The Future of Water Management

In June 2001 the EPA issued a report titled Protecting and Restoring America's Watersheds. A watershed is defined as a "land area that drains to a body of water such as a stream, lake, wetland, or estuary." In other words, a watershed is determined geologically and hydro logically, rather than politically. Figure 9.9 shows a watershed example and the many issues and processes that affect it.

Watersheds are delineated by the USGS and identified with unique eight-digit numbers. There are more than two thousand individual watersheds around the country recognized by the USGS and EPA.

The EPA believes that the nation's water quality problems cannot be solved by further regulating point-source discharges. Instead, the agency advocates a comprehensive approach that crosses jurisdictional boundaries and addresses all of the air, water, land, and social and economic issues that affect a particular watershed. The watershed approach would balance competing needs for drinking water, recreation, navigation and flood control, agriculture and forestry, aquatic ecosystems, hydropower, and other uses. Currently these uses are managed by a variety of agencies at the federal, state, and local level. The EPA actively encourages the participation of private environmental and conservation groups in the watershed approach. In 2002 the EPA began a grant program to allocate funds to community-based programs that support watershed monitoring and management techniques. As of early 2005 more than $30 million in grants had been awarded.

The EPA Web site includes a program called Adopt Your Watershed. It features an online database of information and data available to the public for each of the nation's watersheds. The database identifies thousands of local and regional groups that engage in activities to further watershed protection and improvement.

Continue reading here: Ocean Dumping

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