Watershed management

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Watershed management is the study of the relevant characteristics of a watershed aimed at the sustainable distribution of its resources and the process of creating and implementing plans, programs, and projects to sustain and enhance watershed functions that affect the plant, animal, and human communities within a watershed boundary.[1] Features of a watershed that agencies seek to manage include water supply, water quality, drainage, stormwater runoff, water rights, and the overall planning and utilization of watersheds. Landowners, land use agencies, stormwater management experts, environmental specialists, water use surveyors and communities all play an integral part in watershed management.

Objectives of watershed management

The different objectives of watershed management programes are:

  • To protect, conserve and improve the land of watershed for more efficient and sustained production.
  • To protect and enhance the water resource originating in the watershed.
  • To check soil erosion and to reduce the effect of sediment yield on the watershed.
  • To rehabilitate the deteriorating lands.
  • To moderate the floods peaks at down stream areas.
  • To increase infiltration of rainwater.
  • To improve and increase the production of timbers, fodder and wild life resource.
  • To enhance the ground water recharge, wherever applicable.


  • To reduce the occurrence of floods and the resultant damage by adopting strategies for flood management.
  • To provide standard quality of water by encouraging vegetation and waste disposal facilities.

Need of watershed management

An integrated watershed management approach needs to be adopted and the soil and water conservation technologies and approaches need to be applied in field situations by the officer-trainees. The Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation (IISWC) director PK Mishra said this while addressing a multi-disciplinary team of 20 officers from Odisha at the conclusion of a five-day training programme on soil and water conservation training-cum-exposure visit at the institute on Friday. The trainees were sponsored by the Institute on Management of Agricultural Extension, Bhubaneswar.

Mishra spoke on the concept, philosophy, importance of conserving natural resources through integrated watershed management. He advised the participants to give more thought on this mechanism. Speaking on the occasion, Plant Science head OP Chaturvedi stressed on importance of work in close collaboration with people and different agencies and not in isolation.He said that common property resources should be protected, conserved and utilised with community participation for their common cause and development. The HRD and Social Science division head Lakhan Singh motivated the officers to use past experiences and relate with existing agro-ecosystems. He highlighted the various factors promoting and inhibiting people's participation in watershed management. He said the commitment of villagers and officers towards watershed goal will make a difference in socio-economic transformation of people.

Watersheds sustain life, in more ways than one. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than $450 billion in foods, fiber, manufactured goods and tourism depend on clean, healthy watersheds. That is why proper watershed protection is necessary to you and your community. Watershed protection is a means of protecting a lake, river, or stream by managing the entire watershed that drains into it. Clean, healthy watersheds depend on an informed public to make the right decisions when it comes to the environment and actions made by the community.

Watershed management practices in terms of purpose

  • To increase infiltration
  • To increase water holding capacity
  • To prevent soil erosion
  • Method and accomplishment

In brief various control measures are:

  • Vegetative measures ( Agronomical measures)
  • Strip cropping
  • Pasture cropping
  • Grass land farming
  • Wood lands
  • Engineering measures ( Structural practices 0
  • Contour bunding
  • Terracing
  • Construction of earthen embankment
  • Construction of check dams
  • Construction of farm ponds
  • Construction of diversion
  • Gully controlling structure
  • Rock dam
  • Establishment of permanent grass and vegetation
  • Providing vegetative and stone barriers
  • Construction of silt tanks dentension

Influence of soil conservation measures and vegetation cover on erosion, Runoff and Nutrient loss.

Controlling pollution

In agricultural systems, common practices include the use of buffer strips, grassed waterways, the reestablishment of wetlands, and forms of sustainable agriculture practices such as conservation tillage, crop rotation and intercropping. After certain practices are installed, it is important to continually monitor these systems to ensure that they are working properly in terms of improving environmental quality.

In urban settings, managing areas to prevent soil loss and control stormwater flow are a few of the areas that receive attention. A few practices that are used to manage stormwater before it reaches a channel are retention ponds, filtering systems and wetlands. It is important that stormwater is given an opportunity to infiltrate so that the soil and vegetation can act as a "filter" before the water reaches nearby streams or lakes. In the case of soil erosion prevention, a few common practices include the use of silt fences, landscape fabric with grass seed and hydroseeding. The main objective in all cases is to slow water movement to prevent soil transport.


The second World Water Forum held in The Hague in March 2000 raised some controversies that exposed the multilateral nature and imbalance the demand and supply management of freshwater. While donor organisations, private and government institutions backed by the World Bank, believe that freshwater should be governed as an economic good by appropriate pricing, NGOs however, held that freshwater resources should be seen as a social good.[2] The concept of network governance where all stakeholders form partnerships and voluntarily share ideas towards forging a common vision can be used to resolve this clash of opinion in freshwater management. Also, the implementation of any common vision presents a new role for NGOs because of their unique capabilities in local community coordination, thus making them a valuable partner in network governance.[3]

Watersheds replicate this multilateral terrain with private industries and local communities interconnected by a common watershed. Although these groups share a common ecological space that could transcend state borders, their interests, knowledge and use of resources within the watershed are mostly disproportionate and divergent, resulting to the activities of a specific group adversely impacting on other groups. Examples being the Minamata Bay poisoning that occurred from 1932 to 1968, killing over 1,784 individuals and the Wabigoon River incidence of 1962. Furthermore, while some knowledgeable groups are shifting from efficient water resource exploitation to efficient utilization, net gain for the watershed ecology could be lost when other groups seizes the opportunity to exploit more resources. This gap in cooperative communication among multilateral stakeholders within an interconnected watershed, even with the likely presence of the usually reactive and political boundary-constraint state regulations, makes it necessary for the institutionalisation of an ecological-scale cooperative network of stakeholders.[4] This concept supports an integrated management style for interconnected natural resources; resonating strongly with the Integrated Water Resources Management system proposed by Global Water Partnership.

Moreover, the need to create partnerships between donor organisations, private and government institutions and community representatives like NGOs in watersheds is to enhance an "organisational society" among stakeholders.[5] This posits a type of public-private partnership, commonly referred to as Type II partnership,[6] which essentially brings together stakeholders that share a common watershed under a voluntary, idea sharing and collectively agreed vision aimed at granting mutual benefits to all stakeholders. Also, it explicates the concept of network governance, which is "the only alternative for collective action",[7] requiring government to rescale its role in decision making and collaborate with other stakeholders on a level playing field rather than in an administrative or hierarchical manner.

Several riparian states have adopted this concept in managing the increasingly scarce resources of watersheds. These include, the nine Rhine states, with a common vision of pollution control,[8] the Lake Chad and river Nile Basins, whose common vision is to ensure environmental sustainability.[9] As a partner in the commonly shared vision, NGOs has adopted a new role in operationalising the implementation of regional watershed management policies at the local level. For instance, essential local coordination and education are areas where the services of NGOs have been effective.[10] This makes NGOs the "nuclei" for successful watershed management.[11]

Environmental law

Environmental laws often dictate the planning and actions that agencies take to manage watersheds. Some laws require that planning be done, others can be used to make a plan legally enforceable and others set out the ground rules for what can and cannot be done in development and planning. Most countries and states have their own laws regarding watershed management.

Those concerned about aquatic habitat protection have a right to participate in the laws and planning processes that affect aquatic habitats. By having a clear understanding of whom to speak to and how to present the case for keeping our waterways clean a member of the public can become an effective watershed protection advocate.

See also


  1. California Watershed Program
  2. Oweyegha-Afunaduula, F.C., I. Afunaduula and M. Balunywa (2003). NGO-sing the Nile Basin Initiative: a myth or reality? Paper at 3rd World Water Forum, Japan, March 2003
  3. Evans J: Environmental governance (2011),Routledge, Chapter 4.
  4. 4. Mark L, Mark S, John T and Mihriye M (2002); Watershed Partnerships and the Emergence of Collective Action Institutions American Journal of Political Science, Volume 46 No.1 Page 148-163. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088419
  5. Ewalt, J. G. 2001. Theories of Governance and New Public Management: Links to Understanding Welfare Policy Implementation. Paper Presented at the Annual Conference of the American Society for Public Administration. Also available at: http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/aspa/unpan000563.pdf.
  6. 1. Emma T and Lisa-Ann H (2010); Public-Private Partnerships for Storm Risk Management in the Cayman Islands; Sustainability Research Institute, The University of Leeds. Also available at: http://www.see.leeds.ac.uk/research/sri/working_papers/SRIPs-21.pdf
  7. 5. Milward H and Provan K (2000). “How Networks Are Governed.” In Heinrich C and Lynn L eds. Governance and Performance: Models, Methods and Results, Page 243. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
  8. 8. Transboundary River Basin Management Regimes: the Rhine basin case study, Newater, pp1-37. Also available at: http://www.tudelft.nl/live/binaries/9229ebc0-66d0-47ca-9d25-5ab2184c85f4/doc/D131_Rhine_Final.pdf
  9. "Nile Basin Initiative".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 7. Prabhakar K, Lavanya K, and Papa Rao A (2010); NGOs and Farmers Participation in Watershed Development Programme in Prakasam District, Asia-Pacific Journal of Social Science, Volume II (1) Pages173-182. Also available at: http://www.socialsciences-ejournal.org/3.9.%20Prabhakar.pdf.
  11. 2. Evans J: Environmental governance (2011),Routledge, Chapter 4.


Further reading

External links

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