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BEYOND WATERSHED PLANNING: LESSONS FROM THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY

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Abstract:

The current emphasis on informed voluntary compliance with recommended best management practices – rather than regulation and enforcement – requires a new approach to watershed planning and management. In addition, many regulatory programs (e.g., TMDLs, Phase II Stormwater, Source Water Protection) depend on promoting and implementing voluntary actions. Protecting and restoring water resources by mandating compliance with laws and regulations is necessary in many cases, but public agencies do not have the resources to adequately address water quality problems nationwide. States have identified more than 20,000 water bodies, including almost 300,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than seven million acres of lakes, as too polluted for fishing and swimming.

Many current watershed planning and management approaches involve detailed assessments and process-heavy stakeholder meetings before any action is actually undertaken. While assessments and broad-based stakeholder buy-in are ultimately required, much time and momentum can be lost while scientists analyze conditions and stakeholders attend meetings – sometimes for months or even years.

The business community moves much quicker. Time lags between product conception, development, and marketing is now measured in weeks. The corporate community is focused on rapid, targeted implementation, not months of pre-project analyses and development of an entire five-year plan before taking action. Many of our watershed problems stem from fairly well-known conditions at identifiable land tracts in the watershed. Working with land owners and land managers (e.g., farmers, developers, city street department staff, loggers) early in the planning process – while the stakeholder meetings are commencing – can help jump start implementation efforts and achieve water quality improvements before the assessment, planning, and management process has run its course. Early action creates, builds, and sustains momentum during that process and generates an atmosphere of progress, community and stakeholder interest, and overall support.

This presentation takes a look at what the business community is hearing about planning and links it directly to the watershed approach. Lessons from management consultants Tom Peters, Stephen Covey, Brian Quinn, and Henry Mintzberg are matched to startlingly similar advice from the Center for Watershed Protection, the US EPA Office of Water and watershed experts from federal, state and private organizations. Recommendations to focus on action and avoid “paralysis by analysis” may provide a refreshing perspective for those burdened with the minutiae and sometimes drudgery of the often interminable planning process.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/193864700785149143

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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