ADEQ: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Arizona's Official Web Site
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Water Quality Division: Watershed Management: Water Quality Improvement Plans

Water quality improvement plans are vital components to ensure Arizona's lakes and streams meet applicable water quality standards. These dynamic plans are consistent with the goals and mission set forth by the Water Quality Division and in Arizona's 5-Year Nonpoint Source Management Plan.

Watershed-based Plans

Watershed-based plans are holistic documents that are designed to protect and restore a watershed. These plans provide a careful analysis of the sources of water quality problems, their relative contributions to the problems, and alternatives to solve those problems. Watershed-based plans should also deliver proactive measures to protect water bodies. In watersheds where a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) has been developed and approved or is in process of being developed, watershed-based plans must be designed to achieve the load reductions called for.

The U.S. EPA recommends in federal guidance that watershed-based plans incorporate "Nine Key Elements" for solving water quality problems and developing a more comprehensive management strategy.

ADEQ encourages groups to utilize and incorporate the recommended Nine Key Elements into watershed-based plans. Funding opportunities are enhanced as projects and management measures identified within plans that include these elements receive priority funding through ADEQ's Water Quality Improvement Grant (WQIG) Program. In broad terms, the nine elements that the U.S. EPA and ADEQ recommend for a watershed-based plan are:

Nine Key Elements

  • Element 1: Causes and Sources - Clearly define the causes and sources of impairment (physical, chemical, and biological).

  • Element 2: Expected Load Reductions - An estimate of the load reductions expected for each of the management measures or best management practices to be implemented (recognizing the natural variability and the difficulty in precisely predicting the performance of management measures over time).

  • Element 3: Management Measures - A description of the management measures or best management practices and associated costs that will need to be implemented to achieve the load reductions estimated in this plan and an identification (using a map or a description) of the critical areas where those measures are needed.

  • Element 4: An estimate of the amounts of technical and financial assistance needed, associated costs, and/or the sources and authorities that will be relied upon, to implement this plan.

  • Element 5: An information/education component that will be used to enhance public understanding of the project and encourage their early and continued participation in selecting, designing, and implementing management measures.

  • Element 6: Schedule - A schedule for implementing management measures identified in this plan that is reasonably expeditious.

  • Element 7: Measurable Milestones - A schedule of interim, measurable milestones for determining whether the management measures, best management practices, or other control actions are being implemented.

  • Element 8: Evaluation of Progress - A set of criteria that can be used to determine whether loading reductions are being achieved over time and substantial progress is being made towards attaining water quality standards and, if not, the criteria for determining whether the plan needs to be revised or, if a TMDL has been established, whether the TMDL needs to be revised.

  • Element 9: Effectiveness Monitoring - A monitoring component to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation efforts over time, measured against the criteria established in the Evaluation of Progress element.

Watershed-based plans in place and currently managing water resources might have some or all of these elements already included, or need minimal supplementation to satisfy the recommended Nine Key Elements. The recommended elements may overlap with elements required for planning documents developed for other local/state/federal agencies. If other planning documents or water quality improvement plans have been developed by or for other entities and contain the nine elements, they may also be used for priority grant funding. ADEQ encourages partnerships to incorporate by reference any voluminous material that already exists in other documents as this information may assist in completing watershed-based plan components. This also avoids duplication of any existing processes or documents that provide the needed information. Existing watershed-based plans should be reviewed and edited to incorporate the nine elements.

Nonpoint Source Funding Prioritization

ADEQ's Water Quality Division recognizes three main types of water quality improvement plans as suitable for influencing the prioritization of nonpoint source funding: ADEQ-approved Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP), and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Reports/Implementation Plans (TIPs), and Arizona NEMO Watershed-Based Plans (NEMO Plans).

Primary Goal Identify priority projects and strategies to mitigate a specific impairment. Identify source categories and load reductions needed to meet standards. Identify sub-watersheds at high risk for impairment by metals, sediment, nutrients, or selenium.
Secondary Goals Community educated concerning impairment and actively involved in mitigation results in long-term improvement. Determine critical conditions when exceedances occur, contributions from natural conditions, and potential strategies to mitigate impairments. Fulfill U.S. EPA's requirements for 319 funds. Provide mapping capabilities for watershed partners. Provide information concerning potential BMPs.
Created By Local Partnership ADEQ NEMO
Scope Impairments Impairments All potential water quality problems.
Scale Drainage to impaired water. Drainage to impaired water. Entire watershed.
Source Identification. Model source categories. Drainage to impaired water. Generalize sources base on land uses.
Estimated Load Reductions. Specific for each proposed project. Generalized based on modeling, land uses, and observations. Very general, based on potential BMPs.
Determining Effectiveness. Supported by identifying key sites (measured deterioration or pollutant discharge) and reference sites during field survey. Frequently difficult to determine. Requires extensive monitoring to fulfill U.S. EPA requirements. Generalized statements

Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs)

WIPs are developed by local watershed partnerships in conjunction with technical support from ADEQ and the University of Arizona.

ADEQ is available to provide technical assistance to watershed partnerships and work with other stakeholder groups in the development of watershed-based plans or other water resource management documents designed to protect and improve water quality.

For more information, please contact us.

Arizona NEMO Watershed-based Plans

The University of Arizona's Arizona NEMO program has developed large-scale watershed-based plans to aid in achieving water quality standards and protection goals for each of Arizona's major watersheds. These plans identify areas that are susceptible to water quality problems and pollution, sources that need to be controlled, and management measures that must be implemented to protect or improve water quality.

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Reports and Implementation Plans (TIPs)

For each TMDL, ADEQ's Water Quality Division is required to establish a TMDL Implementation Plan (TIP) that explains how the allocations and any reductions in existing pollutant loadings will be achieved (Arizona Revised Statute § 49-234G). Developing implementation plans is an integral piece of the TMDL process. The achievement of water quality standards in most surface waters will occur due to voluntary efforts such as voluntary cleanup actions, voluntary implementation of best management practices, volunteer monitoring, and education. When developing implementation plans, ADEQ uses U.S. EPA's recommended Nine Key Elements to develop a comprehensive management strategy to improve water quality.

Stakeholders are encouraged to participate throughout the process to identify actions that should be taken to ensure that plans are implemented. Throughout the development process, public involvement is actively encouraged by ADEQ. Collaborative stakeholder groups are encouraged to help in the development of water quality improvement management measures and monitoring. ADEQ requests public input, information, and remarks through a formal review and comment period on draft and final document plans. Please view the Calendar for public notices, meetings, and hearings related to TMDL.

For more information, please contact us.

Other Plans

In the absence of an approved WIP, NEMO Plan, or TMDL/TIP, ADEQ may base watershed priorities upon other planning documents developed by various entities. These plans are not comprehensive and do not provide support for Water Quality Improvement Grant funding prioritization unless otherwise specified in a current Request for Grant Applications.

To request that a specific plan be added to this list, please contact us.

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