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Watershed Management

We all live in a watershed and our actions affect others in the watershed. Because of this, a watershed approach to planning and management is an important part of water protection and restoration efforts. A watershed approach:

  • is defined hydrologically instead of politically;
  • acknowledges that everyone's actions in a watershed have an effect on others;
  • realizes that upstream conditions affect downstream water quality;
  • creates more effective solutions because whole watersheds and many stakeholders are included.

Many watershed organizations in New York State use a watershed approach in their water protection and restoration activities because it is a very effective strategy for addressing water resource challenges. Like other organizations, the Division of Water (DOW) uses a watershed management approach to guide many programs. The information on this page and on the pages linked below describes how the DOW uses a watershed approach to coordinate many of its activities.

To ensure that water protection and restoration activities are successful, the DOW implements a five-step cycle called "watershed management" (click the boxes in the image below for more information about each step):

The Division of Water watershed management cycle. Click each box for more information about that step.

Assessment Planning & Management Implementation & Permitting Compliance & Enforcement Monitoring

The cycle often begins with monitoring -- although it can start with any of the steps. Once the last step is complete, the cycle begins again, continuing the process of water quality protection and restoration. Each step in the cycle is an important piece and together the five steps form a strong water quality protection and restoration strategy.

What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land that drains into a body of water, such as a lake, river, reservoir, estuary, sea or ocean. The watershed includes both the streams and rivers that convey the water, and the land from which the water runs off. Watersheds are separated from adjacent watersheds by high points such as ridges, hills and mountains. For more information, visit the "We All Live in a Watershed" webpage.

More about Watershed Management:

  • Monitoring - The Division of Water gathers information on the health of the state's waterbodies by monitoring and sampling.
  • Assessment - The Division of Water assesses water quality in all waterbodies in New York.
  • Planning and Management - The Division of Water develops water quality protection and restoration plans for many waterbodies and watersheds in New York.
  • Implementation and Permitting - The SPDES permit program is the primary way the Division of Water implements its water protection and restoration activities.
  • Compliance and Enforcement - The Division of Water uses a variety of processes to ensure that permit requirements are met.
  • Watershed Stewardship - Take action to help preserve and protect our water resources.
  • Contact for this Page
  • Division of Water
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY
    Send us an email
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  • Page applies to all NYS regions