College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
N.C. Agricultural Research Service
N.C. Cooperative Extension Service

Watershed Management Strategies to Protect Water Quality

Prepared by: Gregory D. Jennings

Long-Term Objectives:

1. Identify and implement watershed management strategies to protect water quality while maintaining productivity for agricultural, silvicultural, recreational, residential, and commercial land uses.

2. Develop a watershed management decision-support system to help determine water quality problems, sources, and solutions.

3. Educate local and state land and water resource managers on watershed management principles, with emphasis on reducing nonpoint sources of pollution.

Short-Term Objectives:

1. Collect data necessary to evaluate performance of field-scale "best management practices," watershed-scale land use planning and other water quality protection measures.

2. Test and apply water quality models linked with geographic information systems (GIS) to evaluate watershed management strategies based Upon water quality criteria and risk reduction.

3. Educate resource managers OD current and proposed technologies, regulations, and available support for water quality protection.


1. Initiated 12 multi-agency research and education projects to evaluate and promote management strategies in watersheds with diverse land and water resource conditions and problems.

2. Began testing and applying field- and watershed-scale water quality models in 6 watershed.

3. Initiated development and testing of an internet-based environmental resource management decision-support system.

4. Conducted education programs for farmers, developers, landowners, local and state officials, and citizen groups OD water quality protection technologies, regulations, and available resources.

Water quality and land use data associated with watershed management changes are being collected in the Coastal Plain (Herrings Marsh Run, Tulls Creek, Coastal Tidal Creeks, Little Coharie Creek); Piedmont (Long Creek, Devils Cradle Creek, Swift Creek, McLendons Creek); and mountains (North Toe River, Hiwassee River, Little Tennessee River). Research and education are focused on innovative approaches for reducing pollution by nutrients, sediment, pesticides, pathogens, and wastes including vegetative filters, conservation tillage, waste utilization, and nutrient and pest management. The role of landscape features such as wetlands and riparian buffers in protecting water quality is also being investigated. Data from these studies are being used to support model/GIS system development, testing, and application for long-term evaluation of management strategies. Results of field and watershed-scale monitoring efforts are being shared within and outside the study watersheds. For example, the multi-agency Long Creek Watershed Project is part of a national EPA program in which long-term monitoring, data exchange, modeling, and education are being used to develop innovative approaches to managing nonpoint sources nationwide. Education programs are focused on improving local watershed management in accordance with the state's Water Supply Watershed and Basinwide Water Quality Planning Programs.

Future Plans:

1. Continue research and education in current and future watershed projects to address targeted water quality problems, sources, and solutions, with emphasis on nonpoint source management.

2. Continue model/GIS development, testing, and application using new data and computing technologies.

3. Continue education programs with increased focus on equipping local resource managers and Extension educators with necessary knowledge and support tools for watershed management.