Watershed Management

Water Board Involvement with Watersheds

The State and Regional Water Boards are responsible for protecting California’s water resources. California is divided into nine regions based on major watersheds. The Regional Water Boards are located within these regions. For more than ten years the State and Regional Water Boards shifted their focus towards looking at entire watersheds when addressing water pollution. The Water Boards adopted the Watershed Management Initiative (WMI) to further their goals. With the input and involvement of local stakeholders, unique and effective solutions are created and the WMI provides an avenue in achieving water quality improvements.

Visit the Water Board’s Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP), CWT “Community Based Watershed Programs” web page for further information about community-based watershed programs, volunteer monitoring programs, watershed groups in California, an inventory of watershed projects and more!

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Watershed Management Initiative (WMI)

The WMI was approved as part of the 1995 Strategic Plan and remains a part of the current Strategic Plan. The WMI establishes a broad framework overlying the numerous federal and state mandated priorities. As such, the WMI helps the Water Boards achieve water resource protection, enhancement and restoration while balancing economic and environmental impacts.

  • Goals and Objectives
    The integrated approach of the WMI involves three main ideas:
    1. Use water quality to identify and prioritize water resource problems within individual watersheds. Involve stakeholders to develop solutions.
    2. Better coordinate point source and nonpoint source regulatory efforts. Establish working relationships between staff from different programs.
    3. Better coordinate local, state and federal activities and programs, especially those relating to regulations and funding, to assist local watershed groups.
  • WMI Charter (February 2008)
    This revised Charter outlines the future implementation of the WMI and gives it new perspective based on the lessons learned over the past decade.
  • WMI Chapters
    The Regional Water Boards have developed watershed management strategies that consider local conditions and pollution sources for their priority watersheds. Each Regional Water Board’s WMI Chapter contains these strategies and identifies priorities, where baseline resources will be spent, and where more resources are needed. Each WMI chapter is updated as needed by the Regional Water Board or by a directive from the State Water Board. The combined Regional WMI Chapters comprise the Integrated Plan. To view a particular Regional Board chapter click on the link below:
    • RB 1 - North Coast Region
    • RB 2 - San Francisco Bay Region
    • RB 3 - Central Coast Region
    • RB 4 - Los Angeles Region
    • RB 5 - Central Valley Region
    • RB 6 - Lahontan Region
    • RB 7 - Colorado River Basin Region
    • RB 8 - Santa Ana Region
    • RB 9 - San Diego Region
  • Integrated Plan
    The original Integrated Plan described statewide priorities that were developed collaboratively by the State Water Board, United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Regional Water Boards. The plan also identified the integrated planning process developed by these agency partners to ensure funding of the highest priority activities. The Integrated Plan served largely as an internal planning document to support local watershed management efforts. Updated annually, it consisted of nine Regional WMI Chapters, a State Water Board Chapter and a USEPA Chapter. The combined Regional WMI Chapters, now updated when necessary, comprise the current Integrated Plan. The State Strategic Plan superseded the State Water Board Chapter and the USEPA Chapter is no longer part of the Integrated Plan.

Additional Internet Resources

California Watershed Information

  • Statewide Watershed Program - The California Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency requested that the former CALFED Bay-Delta Watershed Program make a transition to become a Statewide Watershed Program, to be administered by the Department of Conservation.
    • The purpose of the Statewide Watershed Program is to advance sustainable watershed-based management of California’s natural resources through community-based strategies.
    • The California Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency appointed a 24-member Statewide Watershed Advisory Committee consisting of two members representing each of the state’s ten hydrologic regions and four at-large members with a particular emphasis on tribal, environmental justice, and regional geographic focus.
    • For information about the Statewide Watershed Program please visit the Department of Conservation’s Watershed Program Website.
  • California Watershed Portal - The Department of Conservation (DOC) is introducing the new California Watershed Portal, which began as a joint effort of the Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency. The California Watershed Portal has been transferred to DOC’s Statewide Watershed Program, where it is being updated and redesigned.
  • Information Center for the Environment (ICE) - A cooperative effort of environmental scientists at the University of California, Davis and collaborators at over thirty private, state, federal, and international organizations interested in environmental protection.
  • Natural Resource Projects Inventory (NRPI) - A comprehensive, searchable, electronic database that houses information on thousands of conservation, mitigation and restoration projects being developed and implemented throughout California. NRPI contains an especially vast amount of information on water quality, watershed protection, fisheries habitat and exotic species removal.
  • Global Invasive Species Team (GIST) - Associated with The Nature Conservancy, and helps to ensure that The Nature Conservancy and other organizations can succeed in protecting native plants, animals and natural communities by assessing and preventing invasions of non-native species in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. GIST contains updates on new invasive species, and several searchable, electronic databases to help identify current exotic species in your area.
  • California Watershed Assessment Manual (CWAM) - provides information and guidance to assist watershed assessors. The CWAM is a procedural guide that should be useful to a variety of watershed stakeholders. The mechanics for conducting a watershed assessment are described in detail in the CWAM. One of the ultimate goals of the CWAM is to provide some standardization among watershed assessments, to allow for cross-watershed comparisons.
  • California Watershed Network (CWN) - A non-profit organization formed in 2000, with the mission to help people protect and restore the natural environments of California’s watersheds while ensuring healthy and sustainable communities. CWN works to develop a coordinated network of community-based watershed management in California.
  • Joint Task Force on California Watershed Management - This Task Force assisted in the planning and execution of the State's Watershed Management plan. Included on this web site is the 2002 Final Report of the Task Force on the current status of watershed management in California and links to other valuable California watershed information.
  • CALFED Watershed Program - funded by Proposition 13 and Proposition 50, and established in 1998 as an aid to achieving the overarching goal of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program to restore ecological health and improve water management by working with the community at a watershed level. The goals of the Watershed Program are to provide financial and technical assistance for watershed activities that help achieve the mission and objectives of CALFED, and to promote collaboration and integration among community based watershed efforts.
    • BDPAC Watershed Subcommittee - (formerly known as the Watershed Work Group) Formed in 1998 to assist in the development and implementation of CALFED’S Watershed Program Plan. As of December 2006, the subcommittee is no longer under the jurisdiction of the CALFED Program as it transitions to a statewide approach managed under the Department of Conservation.
    • California Department of Conservation - Provides grants toward beverage container recycling, agricultural land conservation and watershed restoration and management. The Watershed Coordinator Grant Program is a collaborative effort between the Department of Conservation and the CALFED Bay-Delta Program to improve watersheds within the CALFED Solution Area by providing support for coordinating watershed improvements. These areas include watersheds that contribute water to or receive water from the Bay-Delta system.

Other Resources

  • Calflora - Provides information on wild California plants for conservation, education, and appreciation. What Grows Here is a new Calflora application which emphasizes what plants have been observed growing near a particular place. Through this interface, users can pick a place in California by any of several different approaches (e.g., by watershed, town, zip code, park, etc.)
  • Center for Watershed Protection - Some resources offered on this Website include watershed management, better site design, special resource management, control of runoff and discharges, restoration and watershed stewardship, and model ordinances.
  • EPA Watershed Central and “Watershed Wiki” - Watershed Central is a tool to help watershed organizations and others find environmental data and watershed models. Watershed Central also contains links to watershed technical resources and funding, watershed organizations, and mapping applications to help find information specific to named watersheds. Watershed Central includes a “Watershed Wiki” that watershed practitioners are encouraged to use to share tools, expertise, scientific findings, and local approaches to watershed management.
  • Getting Your Feet Wet with Social Marketing: A Social Marketing Guide for Watershed Programs (7.3 MB) - A free guide for using social marketing to further watershed program goals is now available, courtesy of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
    • Successful social marketing campaigns can inspire watershed residents and stakeholders to engage in and sustain actions that will save water, improve the condition of the watershed and reduce pollution. Overall watershed protection and restoration goals and fundraising efforts will be furthered through measurable results achieved through communications-based approaches. Social marketing can be an efficient and cost-effective way to improve and restore environmentalconditions.
    • The first eight chapters of this book guide the reader through the social marketing process using water examples from Utah and throughout the country. The final four chapters offer short case studies of successful water-related social marketing efforts. The appendices are filled with worksheets, checklists, lists of additional resources and samples of audience research documents.
  • Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters - Intended to help communities, watershed organizations, and state, local, tribal and federal environmental agencies develop and implement watershed plans to meet water quality standards and protect water resources. It was designed to help any organization undertaking a watershed planning effort, and it should be particularly useful to persons working with impaired or threatened waters. EPA intends for this handbook to supplement existing watershed planning guides that have already been developed by agencies, universities, and other nonprofit organizations.
  • Surf Your Watershed - Provides assessments of watershed health, environmental information, and other drinking water information by searching through geographic units. By visiting this USEPA web page, you can find local and national watersheds, and search information on citizen based groups that are active in your watershed.
  • Watershed Management Council - A non-profit organization whose members represent a broad range of watershed management interests and disciplines. Find information here on watershed topics such as Sierran Ecosystems, Salmon Recovery and Watershed Monitoring in addition to links to other watershed and geoscience sites.
  • Western Collaboration Assistance Network (WestCAN) - a program that provides short-term expertise to help collaborative efforts get started or to work through challenging issues.

Contact Information

Regional Level, please contact your regional WMI Coordinator:

Watershed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Revised on November 30, 2004, this MOU replaces the April 28, 2003, Watershed Management MOU required by the Watershed, Clean Beaches, and Water Quality Act.

  • What it Defines: a cooperative process for improving watershed health in California
  • The Focus: Agency programs within the California Environmental Protection Agency and the Resources Agency
  • Implementation Efforts Overseen by: Secretaries for Cal/EPA and the Resources Agency
  • What it was Designed to Implement:
    • The California Agency Watershed Strategic Plan
    • Coordination of the Integrated Watershed Management Program with other Watershed Programs
    • Stakeholder advisory processes to assist in setting priorities and allocating funds
    • Watershed protection objectives in the Governor’s Environmental Action Plan and Ocean Action Strategy
  • Memorandum of Understanding