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Water: Watershed Central

Set Goals and Identify Solutions - Results and Next Steps

Goals for waterbodies almost always include meeting the numeric and narrative criteria associated with the beneficial uses established for the waterbody. For example, waters used for recreation must meet criteria limits for bacteria; drinking water sources must not exceed the limits for lead, mercury, and other toxic substances. States, tribes, and the EPA have designated the uses for surface waters in the U.S. and issued measurable or observable criteria designed to protect those uses. Data collected during the watershed assessment phase can be used to determine whether or not the waters under study meet the criteria for their beneficial uses.

If waters do not meet the legally required criteria (i.e., if they are impaired and do not meet the minimum criteria for their designated uses) an analysis can be conducted to identify the problem pollutants or stressor conditions, and their sources. This analysis should also include some sort of procedure to quantify the pollutants/stressors and identify where they are coming from. Ideally, this process will show the relative proportion of problems linked to specific locations in the watershed, so that pollutant/stressor sites can be prioritized and/or characterized for further study. Identification of critical areas - where pollutant/stressor reductions are needed most, or where protective strategies will do the most good - is a key feature of this phase of watershed planning.

The most important aspect of setting goals and identifying solutions is to develop some sense of proportionality regarding the problems encountered and the solutions needed (i.e., the best management practices for responding to the problems). For example, if sediment is a problem, it will be necessary to determine where the sediment is coming from (e.g., construction sites, row crop land, streambank erosion), because the best management practices for controlling each sediment source depends wholly on the type of source, its severity, and its location in the watershed.

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