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A Retrospective Look at Watershed Management, Reflected Through Six WEF Sponsored Conferences

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Watershed 2004 is the sixth watershed management conference WEF has sponsored. Many view the first, Watershed '93, as a pivotal date in launching the concept of watershed management into national prominence. We asked several questions about how our knowledge, skill set, and tools have changed over the last decade and whether the issues and challenges we face in watershed management are the same or different. In this paper, we explore these questions by examining the programs and content of the six WEF sponsored watershed management conferences. Mr. Freedman has been an active participant in planning five of the conferences and chaired three of them and, therefore, has some special insights to offer.

We identified three major trends in the field of watershed management: technical evolution changed the nature of analysis performed; professionals have taken more leadership from lay stakeholders over time; and various realities have come to light that have effected how we examine water quality standards attainment and control of nonpoint sources.

Observations made upon comparing the conference programs through the years revealed some interesting findings explored in this paper. For example:

Today, more papers have a focus on regulatory issues, whereas in earlier years there was an emphasis more on grass roots public involvement, not government regulation. The new regulatory focus, and the associated need for more rigorous technical analysis, has required more professionals to become involved in watershed management.

In 1993, we had a lot of discussion of stakeholder goal setting but talk of changing water quality standards was rare. Today, re-consideration of standards is a common topic.

Use of models was not a typical component of a standard watershed management plan in 1993. Today with the availability of integrated and easy to use watershed models, and the wider use of personal computers, we see modeling as a typical component, not a rare luxury.

Database use has exploded in the last dozen years, with the advent of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and web-based searches. In 1993, use of these tools was rare.

These are just examples of the range in inquiries and observations presented in this paper. This paper serves to document our technical progress, our shift in emphasis and concerns, and our broadened experience, and reflects on our successes and failures. The conference presentation will by design be a bit shorter than some to leave the attendees a special opportunity to add their own observations, creating a fun and valuable dialog among the community that has helped shape this important field.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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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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