is a new term for many of us, but its simple to define.
A watershed is a geographic area in which all water flows into a single
river. Each of our states major rivers, such
as the White, Winooski, Lamoille, and Passumpsic, has its own watershed.
a watershed, whether the rain or snow falls on a mountainside, a village,
or a farm field, the water eventually flows downhill to the river
that carries the water away. Unfortunately, the water picks up many
different contaminants along the way, including fertilizers and pesticides
sprayed on lawns, motor oil and other fluids leaking from cars, and
manure from farm fields.
at the Agency of Natural Resources believe the best way to address
these sources of contamination known as nonpoint source pollution
is holistically and in partnership with the Vermonters who
live in these watersheds.
Agency has delineated 17 watershed planning units, some encompassing
multiple watersheds (see map below). As part of our effort to conduct
a basin planning process for all 17 regions in the next five years,
the Agency, working with existing water-related organizations whenever
possible, will establish a council comprised of area residents and
state officials within each watershed to oversee the basin planning
Agencys Department of Environmental Conservation launched the
Watershed Improvement Project in 1999 to implement short-term, action-oriented
projects within watersheds while engaging Vermonters in the identification
of long-term water quality management goals by way of the basin planning
process. Its a cooperative approach that calls on Vermonters
to devote time to the stewardship of the lakes, ponds, streams, rivers,
and wetlands in their communities. Although a regulatory approach
to keep sewage and industrial waste out of rivers worked because the
state could pinpoint each specific source of pollution, managing nonpoint
source pollution solely through regulation would be unwieldy and difficult
to enforce. Furthermore, while cleaning up existing pollution is an
important part of the Watershed Improvement Project, protecting high-quality
waters is an essential element as well. Preventing degradation of
water quality is more sensible and cost-effective than restoring impaired
Agency views this watershed approach not only as a way of thinking
ecologically, but also as a geographic focus for community involvement.
Vermonters will begin to think of the environmental impacts of their
lives on the watersheds where they live. To better serve Vermonters,
the Agency is moving some of its programs, including the Watershed
Improvement Project, from its Waterbury offices to the regional offices.
the first major endeavor under the Watershed Improvement Project,
the Agency developed a close working relationship with the White River
Partnership, a watershed association with members throughout the White
River watershed. The Partnership and the Agency organized public forums
to identify community concerns regarding water quality and water uses.
Both organizations focused their energy and resources to address these
concerns collaboratively with other state, federal, and local groups.
Projects that grew out of this effort included stabilization and restoration
of river corridors, a public access to water study, a locally led
water quality monitoring program, and an inventory of aging dams.
result was a working draft of the White River Basin Water Quality
Management Plan, released by the Agency in September 2001. The working
draft made preliminary recommendations for how waters in the basin
should be managed in the future, and outlined strategies for addressing
local concerns such as the health of fisheries and access to public
waters. The strategies in the working draft provide an opportunity
for local groups, such as the White River Partnership and government
agencies, to work collaboratively to resolve water quality concerns.
After considering the range of public comments and meeting with stakeholders
in the basin, the final draft will serve as a guide for the Agency
in its work and become a resource for the public. The Agency expects
to release the final draft plan in early 2002.
Vermonts 17 major watersheds are sub-watersheds. These are the
basins for streams and river branches that empty into larger rivers.
Twenty-six Vermont streams in urban watersheds are classified as impaired,
meaning they do not meet one or more of Vermonts Water Quality
Standards. Urban stormwater frequently contains contaminants such
as automobile fluids, lawn chemicals, and sediment often in
great bursts following a storm.
Agency of Natural Resources in 2001 established a watershed improvement
permit system to accelerate the clean-up of urban streams polluted
primarily by stormwater run-off. Because this problem is created by
a variety of sources across the watershed with stormwater run-off
coming from hundreds of roads, parking lots, and lawns the
Agency believes it needs to be tackled across the watershed.
the watershed improvement permit system, many businesses, municipalities,
and homeowners associations will need to repair, install, or
upgrade stormwater treatment systems. As a result, the volume of pollutants
entering urban streams will decline markedly. These permits will be
individually crafted for each impaired watershed and will apply to
three categories of stormwater discharges:
Stormwater discharges to the impaired water from existing businesses
and residential developments typically involving two or more acres
of impervious surface (roofs and paved areas).
Stormwater discharges that have been designated by the Department
of Environmental Conservation as significant stormwater discharges
to the receiving impaired water; and
Proposed discharges of stormwater to the impaired water from new development
Agency believes this approach will improve stormwater-impaired waters,
eliminate the Agencys expired permit backlog, and allow new
development to move forward through the permitting process.