Water Resources Management

Program Summary

Clean and plentiful waters are needed to support local economies, provide recreational opportunities, sustain fish and wildlife habitats, and enrich our everyday experiences. New York State’s water resources - rivers and streams; lakes and reservoirs; estuaries; Great Lakes; and the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound - all contribute to our quality of life. Planning on a watershed scale allows communities to effectively and comprehensively address water quality issues throughout their watershed, while balancing the need for economic growth and development. Even where water quality is high, human activity can pose a threat to water quality and availability. Managing activities to reduce sources of water pollution along our waterfronts and throughout the watersheds of coastal waters and inland waterways is a critical task for communities that want to make the most of their waterfronts and enjoy the many benefits that depend on good water quality.

Watershed Management

The combined effects of many individual actions from a variety of land uses and activities within a watershed affect water quality. While communities can and should address their water quality problems individually, many water quality problems are best addressed on a watershed basis, especially where watersheds cross political boundaries and involve more than one community. The watershed planning and protection approach recognizes the need to address not only the individual water resources within any given watershed, but all the land from which the water drains to these waterbodies. Watershed planning allows communities to integrate water resource protection and restoration with growth management at the local and regional level, balancing environmental and economic factors. Watershed planning provides an opportunity for community to reach out to its residents and businesses, building support for water quality improvements while planning for economic and community growth.

To assist communities in addressing shared issues and opportunities in water resource management, the Department of State prepared a multi-media package, including the Watershed Plans: Protecting and Restoring Water Quality video and companion guidebook, designed to encourage and assist local watershed planning and implementation efforts. The video highlights communities that are reaping the benefits of protecting and restoring water resources through the preparation and implementation of watershed plans in New York. The Watershed Plans: Protecting and Restoring Water Quality Guidebook provides a step-by-step watershed planning process for communities to create a watershed plan that will protect and improve water quality.

Watershed Management Plans enable communities to:

  • Establish a mechanism for long-term watershed management, often through the creation of an intermunicipal watershed organization;

  • Describe and understand existing water quality and watershed conditions, current impairments and anticipated threats to water quality, and recognize the key problems and opportunities in the watershed;

  • Identify and describe priority actions needed to address water quality impairments or threats;

  • Create an implementation strategy identifying stakeholder roles and the financial and institutional resources needed to undertake these priorities;

  • Develop a means to measure success, track implementation, and monitor performance; and

  • Network with other communities, agencies and organizations with experience in the successful preparation and implementation of watershed management plans.


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