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Water: Watershed Central

Characterize the Watershed - Results and Next Steps

Watershed characterization is very much an analytical process, driven by data on water quality, land use, land management practices, permitted discharges, and natural conditions such as climate, topography, soils, biota, and so on. It also involves the synthesis of information from long-term residents in the watershed, who can provide valuable information on hydrologic trends, fisheries, waste disposal sites, cultural practices, and socioeconomic issues.

A robust watershed characterization will paint a picture of how the watershed has responded to changes in land use/cover, runoff patterns, nonpoint and point source pollutant loads, non-native species, and other stressors and their sources. In most cases, there will be significant gaps in the information collected (for example, new development might be causing rapid changes in runoff volumes and velocities that have not been captured by long-term monitoring and trend analyses). Bacteria sampling might indicate potential problems with recreational activities, but little may be known regarding the sources (e.g., livestock operations, septic systems, wildlife, etc.). Gaps in the data and/or other unknowns typically manifest themselves during the watershed assessment phase, when they can be explored and addressed via targeted monitoring or other intensive study methods.

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