of watershed management activities. The committee reviewed the range of watershed-scale problems faced today; evaluated selected examples of watershed management to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities; and explored the issue of scale in watershed management and the appropriate roles of federal, state, and local decisionmakers.
The committee's members brought a broad range of experience and expertise to this activity; but to broaden their perspective the members designed this study to include opportunities to talk to a wide range of people working on watershed issues. During the course of the committee's five meetings, we talked with grassroots organizations working to restore fisheries, build greenways, and reduce pollution; state and local officials responsible for day-to-day decisionmaking that affects both large and small watersheds; federal agency personnel striving to balance national and local interests; and members of the academic community who have spent years understanding how watersheds and the people and resources within them function. We visited watersheds in different regions and viewed different scales of activity. This report is the result of two years of effort, and while the committee is wholly responsible for the content and conclusions, we express our sincere thanks to the many people who contributed their time and thoughts (Appendix D). This chapter is a brief primer on watershed management, and includes definitions, descriptions of issues, and other overview material to set the stage for the more detailed discussions in later chapters.
The committee began its assessment of watershed management by posing as a hypothesis the proposition that watershed management is an effective method for integrating environmental, economic, and social aspects of water-related problem solving. Throughout our deliberations, we found ourselves returning to this hypothetical base. As will be seen in almost every chapter of this report, we found some evidence to support our hypothesis, but we also found much contrary evidence. In the end, as explored in Chapter 9, we find we cannot prove or disprove the assertion across the broad range of scales we considered, from small local watersheds to large river basins. We consider the assertion philosophically sound but hampered by uncertainty, especially at larger scales and more complex systems.
There are many ways to define watersheds and watershed management. At the most basic level, a watershed is "a region or area bounded peripherally by a water parting and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water" (Webster, 1994). Watershed management is a broad concept incorporating the plans, policies, and activities used to control water and related resources and processes in a given watershed. Watershed management activities can range from hands-on guidance to farmers about how to control runoff to multistate initiatives like those under way to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.