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Nine key element watershed plans

Implementing plans on a watershed basis to restore and protect Wisconsin’s waters

Watershed plans consistent with EPA’s nine key elements provide a framework for improving water quality in a holistic manner within a geographic watershed. The nine elements help assess the contributing causes and sources of nonpoint source pollution, involve key stakeholders and prioritize restoration and protection strategies to address water quality problems.

Understanding the nine key elements

Development of watershed-based plans funded with Section 319 funds must be consistent with EPA's nine elements [PDF]. The elements can be used in watersheds with impaired waters or used to protect watersheds not yet impaired.

The first three elements characterize and set goals to address pollution sources. The remaining six elements determine specific resources and criteria to implement and evaluate the plan.

Summary of the nine minimum elements:

  1. Identify the causes and sources
  2. Estimate pollutant loading into the watershed and the expected load reductions
  3. Describe management measures that will achieve load reductions and targeted critical areas
  4. Estimate the amounts of technical and financial assistance and the relevant authorities needed to implement the plan
  5. Develop an information/education component
  6. Develop a project schedule
  7. Develop the interim, measurable milestones
  8. Identify indicators to measure progress and make adjustments
  9. Develop a monitoring component
The nine elements can provide a structure to develop:


The following resources provide assistance for developing Nine Key Element watershed plans.


The following tools can be used to develop or implement nine key element watershed plans.

Light hitting Lake Mendota as seen from the sky
Lake Mendota, Dane County


The following funding resources can be used to develop and/or implement nine key element watershed plans.

Funding source Plan development Plan implementation
Targeted Runoff Management Grant Program  
Notice of Discharge Grant Program  
Lake Protection and Management Grant Program
River Protection Grant Program
Urban Nonpoint Source & Storm Water Management Grant Program  
DATCP Soil Water Resource Management Grant Program [exit DNR]
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program [exit DNR]
Great Lakes restoration initiative [exit DNR]
NRCS financial assistance grants and programs [exit DNR]  
EPA nonpoint source related funds [exit DNR]
Water quality trading
Adaptive management