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Policy Statement 422 - Watershed Management

Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on January 22, 2018 
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports:

  • Sustainable and basin-wide water resources management.
  • Development of a unified national vision and supporting organizational framework for watershed management.
  • Development of plans and regulations consistent with the national vision by federal, state, and local governments to manage resources on a watershed basis.
  • Cooperative watershed stakeholder partnerships.


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 aquatic habitats comprising the watershed, and should include consideration of water supply, water quality, water conservation, flood risk management, land use and protection of fish and wildlife resources. A key component of watershed management is cooperative partnerships between the stakeholders in the watershed. 


Effective watershed management is facilitated when the public and the private sectors work collaboratively. Many water problems are not amenable to traditional regulatory approaches. Examples include non-point sources of pollution, competition for water supplies, dam safety, flood damage reduction, habitat degradation, aquatic sediments and minor sources. With the watershed approach, full use of modern technologies like remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and global positioning satellites, can be brought to bear on water quality and quantity problems.

Furthermore, the diverse nature of these problems suggests that top-down management and standard setting is an inappropriate way to deal with them. Using the watershed 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 public hearings. In this way, management actions which reflect local and regional viewpoints are directly incorporated in watershed policy.

ASCE Policy Statement 422
First Approved in 1994