State of New Mexico > Environment Department > Surface Water Quality Bureau

Surface Water Quality Bureau
Watershed Protection Section
Watershed-Based Plans
Watershed-Based Plans

Watershed-Based Plans (WBP) are developed and implemented to address impaired waters in New Mexico.  Where the WBP is designed to implement a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), nine elements will help provide reasonable assurance that the projects become successful over time.

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Abe Franklin
Program Manager
(505) 827-2793

Brian Fontenot
US EPA Nonpoint Source Program Manager
(214) 665-7286

Get Connected
To find out whether a watershed-based plan or other related plan has already been prepared within a particular watershed, you should first review the pages on USEPA-Accepted Watershed-Based Plans, Watershed-Based Plans in Development, Watershed Restoration Action Strategies, and Wetland Action Plans.  Watershed-based planning projects in progress that are supported with Section 319 funds are listed in the Grants Reporting and Tracking System.  A list of Watershed Planning Groups maintained by the Watershed Protection Section is another useful tool for finding others with interest in your watershed or stream and learning from them what progress has been made in the areas of watershed-based planning or implementation.  Watershed Protection Section staff are also available to help you find out what is happening in your watershed, simply by contacting us at the phone number or email address above.

Get Started
Groups or individuals interested in watershed-based planning to improve water quality should know whether the stream of interest has had a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) prepared.  A list of TMDLs in New Mexico is available online. The TMDL documents include basic estimates of how much pollutant load reduction needs to occur for a stream to meet its water quality standard.  Interested people should also become familiar with the “Minimum Elements of a Watershed-based Plan” listed in the Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories.  The Watershed Protection Section in cooperation with the New Mexico State Purchasing Division solicits proposals, usually in the spring of each year, for watershed-based planning projects.  A second Request for Proposals (RFP), also in the spring, solicits proposals for on-the-ground projects to implement watershed-based plans, but includes a “planning feedback” component in the requested scope of work that allows groups to optionally revise or supplement watershed-based plans.  Both RFPs are posted on the web by this agency and the State Purchasing Division.

Develop a Watershed-Based Plan
One of the best references for how to develop a watershed-based plan is EPA’s comprehensive Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters and associated tools such as a Quick Guide and a Watershed Plan Builder.  The Handbook covers a wide range of technical and social aspects of watershed-based planning.  Generally, water quality monitoring, modeling, or both will be required to identify the important pollutant sources and to estimate the pollutant load reductions that may be achieved with different management measures.  The Handbook includes useful summaries of several models, some of which are in the public domain and don’t require highly specialized skills to run. 

As of 2014, more stream miles in New Mexico are impaired by temperature than any other parameter.  Two models not mentioned in the Handbook, but which are useful for modeling heat loading in streams, are the Stream Network and Stream Segment Temperature Models (SNTEMP and SSTEMP) developed by the US Geological Survey.

Monitoring or modeling supported with Clean Water Act Section 319 funds can only be conducted under an approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP).  Development of a QAPP is an eligible activity for a watershed-based planning project funded with Section 319 funds, but the QAPP needs to be completed before the monitoring or modeling.  The Paso del Norte Watershed QAPP for pollutant source identification is a useful example for anyone wanting to know more about this requirement.

One of the nine elements of watershed-based plans is a monitoring component to evaluate the effectiveness of implementation efforts over time.  The monitoring component is described in the plan, rather than implemented during the planning project.  While effectiveness monitoring is a large topic better elaborated in the Handbook, the Watershed Protection Section recommends consideration of upstream and downstream, before and after study designs in situations where large data sets can be collected (e.g., temperature data).  The Nonpoint Source Effectiveness Assessment, 2008-2011 provides more information on that approach.

Submit a Watershed-Based Plan
If you are ready to submit a watershed-based plan for review, please contact the Watershed Protection Section at the phone number or email address above.  We will ask a few questions and conduct a preliminary evaluation to let you know whether your plan may meet all nine planning elements, and give you some feedback.  If the WBP appears to possibly address all nine elements, then we will review it and provide more detailed feedback using the EPA Region 6 Watershed-Based Plan Review Guide.  If we concur that the plan addresses all nine elements of watershed-based plans, or is very close, and with your permission, we will submit it to EPA Region 6 for their review.  The EPA Region 6 contact identified above is also available to discuss the details of watershed-based planning at any stage in the process.

USEPA–Accepted Watershed-Based Plans

Visit our USEPA-Accepted Watershed-Based Plans Online!

These Watershed-Based Plans (WBPs) were reviewed by USEPA and determined to meet the nine planning elements described in their Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories.


Watershed-Based Plans in Development

Visit our DRAFT Watershed-Based Plans Online!

These DRAFT WBPs are still works-in-progress, having not yet attained all nine planning elements described below and in USEPA's Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories.


Watershed Restoration Action Strategies

Visit our archival Watershed Restoration Action Strategies Online!

Visit our WRASs that were developed prior to the nine elements of the WBP that have been incorporated into the Nonpoint Source Management Plan since 2009.  These archival plans generally lack the quantitative elements required of WBPs, but many of them still provide ueseful background information for future planning.


Wetland Action Plans

Visit our Wetland Action Plans Online!

Wetland Action Plans (WAPs) are designed to specifically address wetlands and riparian resources within the boundary of a specific watershed.  SWQB facilitates watershed groups throughout the State to develop WAPs as an additional component of their Watershed-Based Plan.

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