Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on January 22, 2018 
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 4, 2021 
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 16, 2021


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports:

Sustainable and basin-wide water resources management using a watershed-based approach.
Development of a unified nation-wide vision and supporting organizational framework for watershed management.
Development of forward-looking sustainable and resilient plans and regulations consistent with the national nation-wide vision by federal, state, and local governments to manage resources on a watershed basis.
Cooperative watershed stakeholder partnerships.
Consideration of social equity for disadvantaged communities in at-risk areas.


Legislation authorizing and funding water resource management and planning has typically been written for a specific level of government. It has also focused on individual water resources, rather than the interrelated, hydrologic and environmental system that defines the watershed. As a result, efforts to manage water resources are often limited and single-purpose. Watershed plans should consider the multiple water resources and fish and wildlife habitats comprising the watershed. 

Watershed Management should be resilient, consider those who live and work in the watershed, and consider the role of water in land use, water supply, transportation, recreation, water quality, water related damages, disasters, water reuse, and protection of fish and wildlife habitats. A key component of watershed management is cooperative partnerships between the stakeholders in the watershed. The quality of life of disadvantaged community members in a watershed planning area is already at risk, requiring the need for social equity considerations in watershed management planning efforts.


Effective watershed management is facilitated when the public and the private sectors work collaboratively. Watershed solutions are generally not amenable to past approaches that only solve one aspect of water, negatively effecting other water uses, sometimes unintentionally. Examples include projects that optimize one aspect of water and ignore other potential impacts such as non-point sources of pollution, competition for water supplies, dam safety, flood damage reduction, habitat degradation, aquatic sediments, and minor sources. 

Furthermore, the diverse nature of watersheds suggests that isolated management among disconnected stakeholders is an inappropriate way to deal with them. In the past, the needs of disadvantaged communities have been ignored or marginalized, resulting in the further destruction of at-risk communities. Using the watershed-based approach, all levels of government, the public, and private industry are encouraged to participate in the decision-making and implementation process. This may include engineering studies, social and political assessments, and inclusion of the people who live and work in the watershed. In this way, management actions which reflect local and regional viewpoints are directly incorporated in watershed policy and plans.

ASCE Policy Statement 422
First Approved in 1994