Watershed Management - Overview and Planning

Watershed Management

Overview of watershed management

Do you have proper insights on the management of watersheds? Before digging out the complete information on watershed management, let’s understand what watershed is.

What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land that sheds or drains water into a particular waterbody. Irrespective of size, every water body has its own watershed. The watershed channelizes rainwater and snowmelt into streams and rivers. Due to gravity, all smaller bodies follow a certain path and become larger ones such as lakes, oceans, and bays.

However, not all snow melt or rain that drags into watersheds follows the same pattern; some seeps go into underground reservoirs called aquifers.

What is Watershed management?

Watershed management describes the practices of using land and water resources to protect the water resources of a watershed. It demands the comprehensive management of land and water resources that do not harm the plants and animals living there.

The foremost objectives of watershed management:

  • To protect, improve, and conserve the land of a watershed for effective and sustainable production.
  • To control pollution and reduce overexploitation of resources.
  • To preserve wildlife and control soil erosion.
  • To boost groundwater recharge, wherever applicable.

Why is watershed management important?

Have you thought about the importance of watershed management? Why must we focus on the management of watersheds? All the questions urge us to unfold the significance of watershed management that primarily focuses on controlling water pollution. There are different kinds of pollution found in the watershed. The management finds a way to transport the pollutants and methods to eliminate those pollutants.

Whatever activity you perform on a watershed, affects the quality of water that includes runoff from already-developed areas, new land development, household activities, agricultural activities, and more. Through effective planning, it is easy to identify the activities, impacting the health of watersheds and reduce their adverse impact.

Impactful management of watersheds requires a partnership among all affected parties within the watershed. The partnership decides the success of land and water resources management. It allows us to prioritise the implementation of watershed management.

Planning of watershed management

Watershed management planning demonstrates a blueprint for the protection and improvement of water quality and other natural resources associated with a watershed. Additionally, the boundaries of watersheds go beyond political boundaries into adjacent states and/or municipalities.

Watershed Management Programmes in India

Under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Indian government established the National Wastelands Development Board in 1985. Later in 1992, a separate Department of Wastelands Development was created in the Ministry of Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation and the National Wastelands Development Board was transferred to it.

In April 1999, the Department of Wastelands Development was renamed the Department of Land Resources. It became the nodal agency for land resource management. The department has implemented several programs, including the Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP), Desert Development Programme (DDP) and Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP).

Prime Minister Krishi Sinchayee Yojna (Watershed Development Component) (WDC-PMKSY)

With the primary objective of restoring ecological balance, the WDC-PMKSY harnesses, conserves, and develops degraded natural resources such as soil, water, and vegetative cover. Through the program, we can prevent soil erosion, regenerate natural vegetation, harvest rainwater, and recharge the groundwater table.

Neeranchal Watershed Program

Neeranchal is a National Watershed Management project supported by the World Bank that aims to provide technical support and strengthen the Watershed Component of PMKSY. In India, the programme is being implemented in nine participating states: Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana.

The program is designed to achieve the primary objectives of the watershed component of PMKSY and provide access to every farm. It also addresses the following concerns:

  • Plan strategies to check the sustainability of enhanced particles of watershed management when the support was removed.
  • Creation of systems to ensure the implementation and outcomes of watershed programmes and rainfed irrigation management practices.

Key Steps in Watershed Management

To implement the planning of watershed management, there are some steps you need to keep in mind:

Better understand your watershed

Before implementing any program, you need to identify watershed characteristics and inventory the watershed’s natural resources. You need to prepare the map of the watershed’s boundaries and smaller drainage basins within the watershed. Know the inventory and map of the watershed resources, land use and land cover, soils, quality of water resources, and pollution sources.

Create local partnerships

For watershed management, you need to develop local partnerships. It helps you to generate greater awareness and ensure the involvement of the local public. Through people's involvement, you can build a sense of community, reduce conflicts, and increase commitment to environmental sustainability. Furthermore, the local partnership involves:

  • Residents
  • Landowners
  • Watershed associations and other environmental and civic groups
  • Federal, state, and municipal government officials
  • Local business and industry leaders
  • Agricultural users
  • Developers
  • Teachers
  • Recreational users

Identify priorities for action

Planning watershed management needs you to determine the opportunities for reducing pollution and addressing other pressing environmental issues. Once you have identified the opportunities, you need to prioritise those opportunities and develop a time frame to achieve the goal of pollution reduction and habitat improvement.

Conduct educational programs

The education and knowledge of the public and their participation in the planning decide the success of management programs. So, use different methods to involve and educate the public in watershed management. For that, you need to form citizen review groups and advisory committees.

Ensure implementation and follow-up

When you aspire for the success of watershed management planning, you need to prepare a schedule with milestones and build a committee to check the progress of the project. You can establish a monitoring program to measure the success using data analysis. Also, ensure that the recommendations of the watershed plan (such as design standards) are integrated with municipal land use regulations.