Watershed Management | Meaning, Purpose, Principles, Components

Watershed Management: Everything You Should Know

Watershed is a land area that feeds all the water running under it by draining it off into a larger water body. Over time, watershed management has gained immense significance and popularity owing to several reasons.

This write-up is curated intending to impart information on watershed management.

After going through this content, you will develop an understanding of the meaning, purpose, methods, types, objectives, benefits, and results of watershed management. Alongside, explore the steps involved in the process.

What is Watershed Management in simple words?

Watershed management is referred to a comprehensive, adaptive and integrated multi-resource management planning process.

Within a watershed, it seeks to balance the healthy economic ecological and social conditions.

Watershed management implies the effective conservation of the soil and water resources while managing the land surface and vegetation to conserve the soil and water for immediate and long-term benefits.

Watershed management furnishes a framework for decision-making which helps in assessing the nature and status of watershed alongside identifying its issues and evaluating and implementing the objectives.

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What is a watershed?

Watershed

Watershed refers to an area of land that feeds all the water running under it and raining off into a larger water body.

It has a common set of streams and rivers that drains into a single larger body of water. Generally, a watershed can cover a large or small land area.

For example, the Mississippi River has an enormous watershed where all the tributaries to the Mississippi that collects rainwater ultimately drain into the Mississippi.

The Mississippi River eventually drains into the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the main purpose of watershed management?

Watershed management aims to identify, analyse and implement the strategies and objectives.

The main purposes objectives of watershed management are as follows:-

  • To attempt to halt Land Degradation and adopt a Holistic process for getting maximum production out of the land
  • To manage, control and utilize the water runoff for useful
  • To rationalize the land utilization and water resources for optimum and sustained production with minimum hazards to the natural resources and environment
  • To ensure optimum infiltration and percolation to solve the problem of soil erosion
  • To reduce the impact of rain on the soil and check its speed at various intervals to reduce the effect of sediment yield on watershed
  • To protect and enhance the water resources alongside moderating floods and reducing the splitting up of tanks and reservoirs
  • To increase irrigation and rainwater conservation for crops and mitigating droughts

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What are the principles of watershed management?

Watershed management can only be successful when it is executed through proper planning, objectives, implementation, methods and staff attitudes.

It is sensitive to everything involved and is based on a concrete set of principles that promotes better management.

  • The watershed planned for management should be in its natural form.
  • The approach adopted for watershed management should be multi-disciplinary.
  • To execute the task of watershed management, there should be the support of a strong framework in a proper way.
  • The approach adopted should be flexible for better adoption of tasks.
  • The most appropriate technology and the finest team of personnel shall be involved.
  • The land resource utilization should be based on its capacity and the top fertile soil depth should be protected.
  • There should be provisions for protecting the vegetative cover and rainwater harvesting.
  • The overall aim of watershed management should be focused to enhance the socio-economic condition of the population living in the watershed.

What are the factors affecting watershed management?

The task of watershed management is prone to be affected by several factors. The prominent affecting factors are as follows:-

  • The watershed characteristics such as shape, size, topography, soils and relief
  • The soil characteristics such as intensity and amount of rainfall and precipitation
  • The social status of the people living in the watershed
  • The watershed operation and land use patterns such as the density of population, vegetative cover and the type and quality of the state.
  • The availability of water resources and their capabilities.

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What are the steps in watershed management?

The steps involved in watershed management to achieve the solution of different objectives of it are as follows:-

  • Recognizing the problems/ issues
  • Analyzing and determining the causes of watershed problems
  • Developing alternative solutions for the formulated objectives aimed to solve the issue
  • Ascertaining the best suitable solution
  • Protecting and improving the already implemented and existing work in the watershed

The steps provided above are further classified into four phases as follows:-

Recognition Phase

The problems of the watershed, their causes, and alternatives development is carried on by conducting the following surveys:-

  • Soil survey
  • Land capability survey
  • Agronomic survey
  • Engineering survey
  • Socio-economic survey
  • Forestlands under permanent vegetation survey

These surveys determine the quantitative and qualitative problems of the watershed and help in formulating a suitable guideline that decides the land treatment measures.

Restoration Phase

The best solutions are selected and applied for watershed management.

The treatment measures have to be applied to the critical recognized problem areas to restore them to the pre-deterioration stage.

Therefore, this stage comes after the recognition phase where the recognized issues are treated.

In the next phase, the biological and engineering measures are applied to land falling under watershed.

Protection Phase

This is the third phase of watershed management where the well-being or general health of the watershed it considered and normal working is ensured.

Also, the watershed is protected against the deterioration factors. The areas restored during the restoration phase are preferred for protection.

Improvement Phase

The last phase is significantly important in the watershed management process.

The overall improvements made during the process are evaluated for all the lands involved or covered.

Along with the evaluation process, due attention is given to improving the agricultural land, forage production, forest land, pasture land and the socio-economic well-being of the inhabitants of the watershed.

What are the components of watershed management?

There are three main components in watershed management which are as follows:-

Land Management

The major determinants of Land management activities in the watershed are land characteristics such as slope, formation, terrain, depth, moisture, texture, and soil capability, and infiltration rate.

Land management interventions can be broadly classified into the following:-

Structural measures

Under the structural measures, several interventions are included which are as follows –

Contour bunds, earthen Bund, stone bunds, compartmental burns, graded bunds, contour trenches, contour terrace walls, bench terracing, broad-based terraces, field bunds, channel walls and centripetal terraces.

Vegetative measures

Under the vegetative measures, several interventions are included which are as follows –

Plant cover, vegetative hedges, mulching, vegetative cover, grassland management, Agroforestry, vetiver fencing and more.

Production measures

Under the production measures, several interventions are included which aims at increasing land productivity as follows –

Mixed cropping, cover cropping, strip cropping, crop rotations, contour cultivation conservation tillage, land levelling, cultivation of shrubs and herbs, use of an improved variety of seeds, Horticulture and more.

Protection measures

Under the protection measures, several interventions are included which are as follows –

Landslide control, runoff collection, gully plugging and more measures are adopted under this.

These interventions mentioned below should be followed strictly according to the characteristics of the land taken for management.

Water Management

The principal factors which are considered for suitable water management are the several water characteristics like inflows, outflows, water use and storage. The interventions of each of the characteristics are as follows:

  • Inflows – Groundwater inflow, surface water inflow and precipitation
  • Outflows – Groundwater outflow and surface water outflow
  • Water usage – Drinking water, Irrigation, Evaporation, Evapotranspiration
  • Storage – Root zone storage, surface storage, ground water storage

Water management can be broadly intervened in the manner which is listed below:-

  • Groundwater recharge
  • Maintenance of water balance
  • Preventing water pollution
  • Economic use of water

The major component of water management is formed by Rainwater harvesting.

It helps in recharging the groundwater. Used for rainwater harvesting are several methods such as rooftop water harvesting, diversion of perennial springs and streams in storage structures, farm ponds, and more.

The rainwater harvesting structures which prove to be cost-effective are as follows:-

  • V ditch
  • Bench terracing
  • Percolation pits or tanks
  • Recharge wells
  • Recharge trenches or rain pits
  • Ferro cement tanks
  • Farm ponds

Biomass Management

The major areas of intervention for biomass management are identified as follows:-

  • Biomass regeneration
  • Eco-preservation
  • Forest management and conservation
  • Increased productivity of animals
  • Plant protection and social forestry

Sediments are identified as one of the major causes of deterioration of water quality.

They can destroy wetlands and block light penetration into water columns which ultimately kills aquatic life-forms.

The rejuvenation of rivers would eventually lead to nature and eco-system rejuvenation.

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