Integrated Watershed Management: Past, Present, and Future

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Former journal title: Water Resources Update, until June 2004

On September 26, 1968, the National Water Commission (NWC) was established in the United States as a consequence of an Act of Congress approved by the President. The activities leading to the establishment of the U.S. National Water Commission originated in conflicts over the proposals to build new dams on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, to implement the Central Arizona Project to divert water from the Colorado River to the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and to study the importation of water into the Lower Colorado from adjoining states. The issues associated with these
proposals prompted the Congress and the President to create the National Water Commission and give it broad authority to examine present and anticipated national water resource problems and give emphasis to alternative ways to meet future needs.

The NWC was directed to consider economic and social consequences of water development. This effort differed from past federal water policy initiatives in that the NWC was charged with "studying all water problems, programs, and policies in the context of their relationship to the total environment..." (NWC, 1973) Institutional arrangements were considered by the NWC as well.

In England in September 1969, an initiative by the Central Government began which ultimately resulted in the creation of ten (10) regional water authorities to provide for comprehensive water services in all of England and Wales. The factors which prompted the Central Water Committee being directed in 1969 to consider the best organizational arrangements for carrying out comprehensive water services included the following (Bulkley, et. al., 1975):

1. The projected increase in demand for water by the year 2000 would pose severe difficulties under existing organizational arrangements.
2. It is anticipated that water re-use will increase and therefore a much greater concern will be required for treatment provided water after use.
3. There should be a sweeping reduction in the number of separate operating units providing sewage disposal and a further reduction in the number of separate operating units providing water supply.
4. There were increasing co nflicts of interest between the various authorities (local units of government, water supply groups, etc.) and inadequate mechanisms for resolving these conflicts apart from intervention by Central Government. The most important areas of conflict included the following:

a. Inflexibility in the use of existing water resources.
b. Divided responsibility for new sources of water.
c. Difficulty in the promotion of joint or national schemes.
d. Conflicts of interest with regard to water reclamation and water reuse.

5. A need existed to be able to implement plans once agreed upon. Previous management and financial arrangements made implementation most difficult.
6. A need existed to improve planning and coordination.
7. It was determined to have both a five year capital works plan for each area as well as a long-term (20 year) capital water plan for each area or region.

These issues identified in England and W ales twenty-six years ago resonate with issues observed in this country today. The balance of this paper will consider the outcomes of the two national efforts - one in the U.S. and one the U.K., plus it will focus upon present and future watershed activities. Specific examples will be cited for two watersheds in the state of Michigan.

Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Water Resources Update
Full Citation: 
Bulkley, J.W. (1995) "Integrated Watershed Management: Past, Present, and Future." Water Resources Update 100(1): 1-17.
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