Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Comparison of Environmental Orientations of Two Watershed Organizations

Mary Knapp, Joseph J. Molnar, William D. Davies


Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in the United States almost 30 years ago, significant progress has been made toward reducing water pollution. Initial ameliorative efforts under the act were focused primarily on the control of point-source (end-of-pipe) discharges of pollution into waterways. Now that those pollution sources have been identified and to a large degree are being managed, nonpoint sources of water pollution (e.g., diffuse runoff from a host of land management activities such as road building, farm and forest practices, livestock operations, and urban development) are now receiving the attention of managers and planners.

In contrast to point-source discharges, non-point sources of pollution are dispersed spatially and temporally, thereby making attribution and regulation problematic. An estimated 40% of U.S. waters are affected by nonpoint sources of pollution (U.S. EPA 1998).

Additionally, the regulation and management of nonpoint-source pollution developed on a path entirely different from that of point-source pollution. Largely a function of the diffuse nature of the pollution and the difficulty in identifying responsible parties, the management of nonpoint-source pollution has been characterized by voluntary efforts, the development of best management practices, and the delegation of management responsibilities from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) to the states. Although point-source discharges by municipalities or industries are more easily addressed by a command-and-control style of regulation, the widespread nature of nonpoint-source pollution dictates that regulation should include a significant component of collaborative resident-led efforts to approach problems and find solutions within the community and the local watershed (see Tietenberg 1992 for a discussion of appropriate regulatory strategies for natural resources problems).

Given the level of support and funding available through U.S. EPA (1998) and the general trend toward local control, the idea of community-based natural resources management has become commonplace. Because the number of such watershed organizations is increasing rapidly (e.g., McGinnis 1999), managers and funding agencies need tools to help understand and evaluate them. There is a need to examine these groups to help characterize them, determine their underlying values base, and develop an approach to assessing their orientation to environmental issues.