Polluted Runoff: Nonpoint Source Pollution

The Watershed Approach

We all live in a watershed — the area that drains to a common waterway, such as a stream, lake, estuary, wetland, aquifer or even the ocean — and our individual actions can directly affect it. Working together using a watershed approach will help protect our nation's water resources.Photo of stream in Indiana Dune National ParkIndiana Dune National Lake Shore stream restoration project was completed as part of the Dunes Creek watershed plan.

A watershed approach is the most effective framework to address today's water resource challenges. Watersheds supply drinking water, provide recreation and sustain life. More than $450 billion in food and fiber, manufactured goods and tourism depends on clean water and healthy watersheds.

A Watershed Approach:

Is hydrologically defined

  • geographically focused
  • includes all stressors (air and water)

Involves all stakeholders

  • includes public (federal, state, local) and private sector
  • is community based
  • includes a coordinating framework

Strategically addresses priority water resource goals (e.g. water quality, habitat)

  • integrates multiple programs (regulatory and voluntary)
  • based on sound science
  • aided by strategic watershed plans
  • uses adaptive management