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Evolving Methodology for Rating Watershed Sustainability in Preparation for Possible Certification

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A research program on Sustainable Water Resources Management has been carried out by the authors since 2004. The 2008 WEF Sustainability Community of Practice established a Sustainable Watersheds Task Force and the authors are co-chairs of the Certification Project Team under that Task Force. Working within this framework, the authors prepared a WEF Technical Practice Update (TPU), which was published after peer review in September 2009. The present paper is an expansion and amplification of the TPU to illustrate the watershed certification concept for the benefit of a larger audience of water resources professionals.

This paper proposes a methodology of watershed sustainability rating that combines and expands existing elements used to assess the sustainability of a watershed. The proposed rating methodology uses a site-analysis approach and ratings from elements in the watershed including (1) human use of physical characteristics; (2) municipal water and wastewater systems, and (3) major industries with water and wastewater facilities. These elements were chosen because they seem to have the greatest potential for affecting the degree to which human use of the watershed is sustainable in the long run. Inherent in these discussions is the concept that human activity, at a minimum, should only use nature's resources at a rate at which they can be safely replenished naturally so that future generations can meet their own needs.

This paper shows that it is possible to combine several existing techniques into a methodology that can be applied to an entire watershed. The proposed methodology can be then tested by application to a pilot area to produce results that are relevant to the stakeholders in that particular area. This can serve as an example that may help others who are attempting to determine the sustainability of their own watersheds. Planning for watershed sustainability may affect how water, wastewater, and industrial facilities are designed, funded, and linked with other organizations. Design, location, and operation of water, wastewater, and industrial facilities can materially affect the potential sustainability of a given watershed.
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Keywords: Analytic Hierarchy Process; Delphi Survey; Sustainability Certification; Sustainable Water Resources Management; Watershed Sustainability Rating

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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