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Water: Watershed Central

Build Partnerships - Identify Issues of Concern

One of the first activities in developing a management plan is to identify issues of concern. These issues will help to shape the goals for your watershed and determine what types of data you will need to collect.

Set up a meeting with stakeholders to identify what they feel are the major concerns in the watershed. At this stage, you can start to link the problems in the watershed with possible causes or sources. As an example, stakeholders might identify beach closures as an issue of concern. This could lead to a discussion of sources of the bacteria that led to the closures.

It is often useful to diagram the links between problems and causes and present them as a picture, or a conceptual model (see Figure 4-1 (PDF) (20 pp, 615K, About PDF)) on page 4-4 of EPA's Watershed Handbook for an example of a conceptual model. These diagrams provide a graphical representation that you can present to stakeholders, helping to guide the subsequent planning process. The conceptual model can be used to clarify the relationships between the possible causes and sources of impacts seen in the watershed and identify what types of data you need to collect later. Figure 4-2 (PDF) (20 pp, 615K, About PDF)) on page 4-4 of EPA's Watershed Handbook shows an example of an initial conceptual model of impairment developed to facilitate the identification of problems and their probable causes for the Greens Creek watershed in North Carolina. The conceptual model was presented to stakeholders for discussion at a meeting at which they identified upland loading of sediment and subsequent impacts on water clarity (turbidity) as the key risk pathway for support of uses in Greens Creek.

As you move through the process and gather more data, these links will become more discernible. Establishing these links between pollutants or stressors and the impacts in the watershed is one of the keys to developing a successful watershed management plan.

For more information on the development of conceptual models as part of the watershed planning process, refer to EPA's Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessment . Build your own conceptual model using Worksheet 4-2 (PDF) (28 pp, 320K, About PDF)), provided in appendix B of EPA's Watershed Handbook. CADDIS , the Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System, is another useful tool when identifying causes of biological impairments.


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