America's ever-increasing population and the growing complexity of our society are making it increasingly challenging for the Corps and other groups to balance the many competing demands on our nation's water resources. Today, solving a problem in one location may well create problems in a nearby area. To address this concern the Corps and others have adopted a watershed approach to addressing water resource issues.
A watershed is an area of land within which all surface waters flow to a single point. It encompasses the area necessary to adequately analyze and manage related water and land resources. Watersheds may be as small as a few acres or larger than several states. Typically, a watershed includes lakes, the river(s) and tributaries that feed into the lakes and adjacent wetlands and coastal areas.
By using a watershed approach the Corps and others are working to evaluate the impact changes in one area will have elsewhere in the watershed in order to achieve the best overall balance. One of the keys to this approach is to involve as many stakeholders as possible in the planning process. Managing resources through a watershed approach promotes collaboration, facilitates greater balance among competing water uses and ensures the restoration and protection of the environment.
An example of the watershed approach in action is the Corps Savannah (GA) River Basin Comprehensive Study. The goal of this study is to develop, with the help of key stakeholders, a comprehensive plan for this watershed that will conserve, restore and protect this valuable ecosystem, while allowing for the appropriate balancing of multiple uses.
Currently, Corps projects in the watershed are helping to provide water supply and hydropower for area residents. However, from talking with various stakeholders the Corps is aware that there is a need for greater water supply, water storage to boost water flow during droughts, and increased flood control. In addition, there is a need to restore the river to more natural water flows, which will help restore the ecosystem and benefit the area's fish and wildlife. The Corps is working with a variety of federal, state, and local agencies and private organizations to craft a plan that will best meet these various needs, while protecting the environment.
The Corps long-range strategic plan calls for a continuing effort to better understand and implement integrated strategies that cut across programs, regions, and agencies and enable us to most effectively utilize our nation's abundant water resources and protect them for future generations.