EPA Releases its 2011 Healthy Watersheds Framework and Action Plan

On September 26, EPA released its Healthy Watersheds Initiative National Framework and Action Plan 2011.  The Action Plan is a living document that will guide EPA and state partner efforts to meet EPA’s Strategic Plan Goal 2 Objective “…to protect the nation‘s high quality watersheds, prevent impairments, and accelerate the restoration of watersheds and aquatic ecosystems.”  The Agency hopes to advance this non-regulatory initiative by integrating this goal into existing EPA and state clean water and water resource programs.

This Framework and Action Plan identify separate actions for EPA Headquarters, Regions, and states according to the goals and concepts of the Healthy Watersheds Initiative (HWI).  Although the document identifies reduced treatment costs as an HWI benefit and includes source water protection in the EPA goals and actions, the state actions do not mention source water protection or identify state drinking water programs as partners.  However, there are numerous opportunities for drinking water program engagement with their clean water program partners.  Some of these include:

  • Inventory healthy watersheds using integrated assessments developed through collaboration across state agencies and with other partners.
  • Develop and implement coordinated healthy watershed protection programs both at the state level and collaboratively at the local level.
  • Develop partnerships with other states, Federal agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders to inventory and protect healthy watersheds.

Relevant to these actions, ASDWA’s Source Water Committee and Nutrients Workgroup members provided comments to EPA on the draft HWI implementation guidance titled, “Identifying and Prioritizing Healthy Watersheds: Concepts, Assessments, and Management Approaches” in June of this year.  The ASDWA recommendations that are applicable to the actions outlined here for states include:

  • Include drinking water as a designated beneficial use and provide PWS well and intake locations to help identify the need for enhanced water monitoring parameters when conducting the watershed assessments.
  • Use source water assessment data and maps to ensure that water supply intake areas and wellhead protection areas (where interacting with surface waters) are considered in each state’s healthy watershed assessment, planning, and implementation process.
  • Ensure that drinking water utilities are included as partners where applicable, particularly for implementing protection programs at the local level.

The Action Plan indicates that EPA will finalize the draft implementation guidance and begin to:  identify funding resources; formally sign MOUs with its Federal partners; and develop Strategic Plan reporting measures as well as a research action plan.  The Agency also expects to conduct outreach efforts that increase awareness and understanding about the importance of the HWI.

ASDWA will continue to provide updates to states on the Healthy Watersheds Initiative as new information becomes available.  For more information and to view the Framework and Action Plan, visit EPA’s web site at:  http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/watershed/hwi_action.cfm