Watershed Management

What is watershed management?

watershed is the area of land from which water drains into a stream, river, lake, wetland, estuary, or other waterbody.  Watershed management is the practice of taking into account that land area when protecting and restoring the quality and condition of our surface waters.  A strong relationship exists between land use and cover, and the water quality and habitat in streams, wetlands, and other waterbodies. Modifications and infrastructure we place in and near streams and rivers, like dams and culverts, can also influence the health and integrity of our waterways. Healthy watersheds, and their land and water resources, recharge groundwater, reduce erosion and flooding impacts, minimize public infrastructure and water treatment costs, and are more resilient to climate change—all ecosystem services that directly benefit communities and cost less than restoring these functions once they are degraded. 

Both small and large tributaries flow into the Estuary, providing freshwater, essential nutrients, and in some cases pollutants.  Large tributaries like the Rondout or Catskill Creeks to smaller streams such as Doodletown Brook or the Landsman Kill all play their own key role in the Hudson River ecosystem.  Because of the obvious connection between the tributaries, their watersheds, and the Estuary, the Estuary Program encourages a watershed approach to research, management and protection of the Estuary.  Through watershed monitoring, outreach, planning and management, community leaders, watershed advocates, scientists and local governments work together to develop watershed conservation strategies.  This process facilitates communication and partnerships among local stakeholders to document current watershed conditions and accomplish projects. Watershed-based planning and management is a foundation of the Hudson River Estuary Program's watershed initiative. Focusing on protecting healthy streams before they become degraded is a tenant of our watershed work, while also striving to improve water quality in impacted streams.

What are the threats to Hudson River?

Water quality is not what it was when the Half Moon sailed up the river 400 years ago, but it has improved over the last 40 years. The Pure Waters Bond Act passed by New York State voters in 1965 and the federal Clean Water Act of 1972 were milestones in cleaning up the Hudson, which in many places was little more than an open sewer. Since then, the Hudson has become a regional asset - its waters attractive to boaters, anglers, and swimmers as well as to fish, birds, and wildlife. In spite of these successes, threats and problems remain that will require many combined efforts to achieve.

For more information about progress and threats visit: How is the Hudson Doing?

What are we doing?

We provide technical, financial and outreach assistance to local watershed groups, intermunicipal councils, municipalities, and regional water partners to encourage and support the spectrum of watershed management activities.  These include initial support to better understand watershed conditions through monitoring, assessment, and characterizing conditions, to planning for restoration and protection strategies, and finally management and implementation projects.

You can link to more information about some of our featured projects here: