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Water: Recovery Potential

Social Context Indicators

Social Context Indicators

This web page contains social context indicators for recovery potential, their relevance to recovery, and basic information about data sources and measurement. Click on each indicator name for indicator-specific fact sheets with more information, including literature excerpts.

Leadership, organization and engagement

watershed organizational leadership (PDF) (3 pp, 58.4K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: Organizations at the level of the specific watershed have been shown to have a key influence on restoration success through building legitimacy through local representation, fostering conflict resolution, and clarifying multiple interests and ideas. Some sources of restoration assistance will not generally implement restoration efforts without active groups that indicate community support and interest. Other related metrics associated with restoration success include organizational persistence, existence of a funded watershed leadership position, and individual leader performance.

Data sources and measurement: Measured as a numeric indicator of the number of watershed groups located within each 303(d) watershed. EPA provides an online database that catalogues watershed groups by 8-digit HUC (EPA-ADOPT). EPA's ADOPT database (See: http://cfpub.epa.gov/surf/locate/index.cfm) provides organization information for watersheds. Users can download the list of watershed groups and create a table that cross-references watershed groups by HUCs for use in GIS. Intersect the watershed coverage by the statewide HUC coverage and link the watershed groups to the corresponding watersheds.


watershed collaboration (PDF) (4 pp, 55.1K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: A metric of collaboration is related to a watershed organizational presence, but goes beyond in providing a measure of involvement and cooperation by diverse interests. As conflicting interests commonly are responsible for watershed restoration failures, successful bridging across differing interest groups is a positive indicator of prospects for success. This can be in the form of one organization but is dependent upon broad and inclusive membership and inclusive procedural rules for its legitimacy.

Data sources and measurement: Although some spatial data on watershed and landowner organizations may be available (e.g., the EPA ADOPT database, See: http://cfpub.epa.gov/surf/locate/index.cfm ), complete spatial data on this metric is not likely to be available. Rather, other sources may be needed to verify collaboration through other information from watershed to watershed. Likely this metric needs to be scored as presence/absence of a multi-interest organization and/or process. If evaluation involves a small number of watersheds or the watersheds are all well-known, it may be possible for a group process to rank each as high/medium/low.


corridor owner-occupied residential

Why relevant to recovery: The degree of owner occupancy along stream frontage can influence the prospects of restoration in numerous ways, including positive and negative influences. As property owners and as residents, they may be motivated by the fact that restoration often improves property values and beneficial uses. In contrast, sensitivity about property rights and engaging in waterfront uses that contribute to impairment or interfere with restoration can lead some owners to oppose restoration efforts. In all cases this subset of landowners are important stakeholders whose positions are capable of influencing recovery.

Data sources and measurement: Data for determining ownership are likely to be found at local level but may not contain actual occupancy information; it may be possible to generalize this metric into high/medium/low categories based on the available information.


government agency involvement (PDF) (1 pp, 33.6K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: Government agency support in the form of funding, recognition, added expertise, regulatory backing, or an organizing/facilitating influence is cited as having a favorable effect on community and stakeholder buy-in on restoration efforts. Specifically in restoration efforts, other stakeholders have appeared less likely to participate and commit to restoration if government agencies aren't also participating actively in support.

Data sources and measurement: Examples of agency involvement often perceived as a positive effect by other stakeholders include watershed or restoration planning, research projects that may inform actions that can improve condition, recognition programs (e.g., wild, scenic and recreational rivers), and agency conservation funding incentives. Scoring this metric can be most simply done as 1/0 for presence/absence of any agency involvement. Other scoring alternatives include numeric counts of total agencies/programs involved, or weighting specific agency connections that appear to be particularly important.


participation rate in land conservation programs

Why relevant to recovery: Socially, landowners engaging in restoration activities tend to motivate other landowners to take part. This may be due to observation of the positive results from the projects or from the demonstration that participation is possible and available. Incentive-based agricultural conservation programs not only address common sources of pollutants but also are a possibility for financial gain to participants.

Data sources and measurement: Information on participation rates may exist on a mapped basis or be attributable to generalized watershed locations. State conservationists Exit EPA Disclaimer provide a state-specific source of this information concerning USDA conservation programs.


large watershed management potential (PDF) (3 pp, 85.8K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: State impaired waters programs are increasingly developing watershed plans and TMDLs on the basis of whole watersheds containing multiple impaired waters, rather than individual actions for specific impaired segments alone. EPA also promotes these 'watershed TMDLs' as an effective approach that employs many efficiencies and a 'critical mass' of effort. Frequently, watersheds at the 10- or 12-digit HUC scale contain several different impaired reaches or tributaries that are addressed in a single watershed plan or TMDL document. Moderate to large watersheds at the 8-digit HUC scale or larger have been successfully used to develop TMDLs and implement controls for 100 or more impaired segments. The approach has several procedural advantages for potential recovery. Primarily, there are efficiencies in modeling one larger system rather than constructing numerous models for smaller segments. Also regarding communications, one larger, coordinated effort can provide more consistent messages and thorough outreach to establish community support. Further, the interrelationship of numerous impaired segments in the same watershed through downstream effects, and indirectly through watershed protection decisions that may shift land use pressures to different sub-watersheds, argues for some restoration planning to be done at a broader watershed context.

Data sources and measurement: This metric may be used to compare segments or compare watersheds with multiple impaired segments within them. Individual, impaired segments are most easily compared on the basis of their co-location with other impaired waters within a standardized watershed unit (e.g. HUC12, HUC10, HUC8). The score can be based on a simple threshold (e.g. 5 or more) or can array the waters continuously based on total count. This metric may also be used to target less dense clusters that still offer the efficiencies of a watershed-based approach with greater likelihood that valuable ecological features remain and restoration can be achieved.


university proximity (PDF) (2 pp, 39.4K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: Universities provide persons with specialized knowledge that may advance a restoration effort in numerous ways. Experts from universities may be able to fill information gaps, or lead technically advanced modeling or calculations essential to complex restoration plans. They also may be less polarizing sources of key information for reconciling stakeholder conflicts than corporate or agency experts. Students from universities may provide low-cost labor through the learning experience of restoration projects managed and overseen by professionals. As students and faculty are typically busy and seldom highly paid, proximity to an impaired water very likely influences the likelihood that they will become involved.

Data sources and measurement: Statewide coverage of universities can be developed from online sources such as UnivSource Exit EPA Disclaimer or American Universities Exit EPA Disclaimer; the entries can be further refined by including only those colleges with environmental, hydrology, or civil engineering programs. Proximity can be estimated by buffering a selected distance (e.g., 50 miles) around either the impaired waters or the universities, then identifying the number of 'proximate' universities. Locations of state and private universities with environmental, hydrology, or civil engineering programs can generally be obtained from state websites. National lists of colleges and general information by state and city are found at University Source (See: http://www.univsource.com/region.htm Exit EPA Disclaimer) or at Global Computing (See: http://www.globalcomputing.com/CollegesContent.htm Exit EPA Disclaimer).


political support (PDF) (2 pp, 44.4K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: The support for specific actions or programs that carry out restoration can be an influence on likelihood of restoration success. This support can be demonstrated in public opinion, in public leaders' positions, or through both. Frequently the degree of community support and political support are in alignment. Thus political support for restoration actions can be an effective metric representing not only general likelihood of community backing but also the existence of influential backing from community leaders.

Data sources and measurement: Sources of this information are likely to vary from state to state.


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Protective ownership or regulation

watershed % protected land (PDF) (2 pp, 39.6K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: Depending on the protections afforded among categories of protected land, this factor provides an indicator of the prospects for a given proportion of total watershed land area to remain in conditions desirable for water quality restoration and protection. Although this factor may not be relevant for sorting relative recovery potential among watersheds at low levels (e.g., less than 25% watershed area), impaired waters with a high proportion of protected drainage area arguably have more ecological functions remaining intact, or may take less effort to reestablish degraded functions.

Data sources and measurement: The Gap Analysis Program (GAP) of the US Fish and Wildlife Service has worked in most states to compile geo-spatial data on statewide land and water protection status for combination with species range datasets. GAP stewardship data identify four categories of land protection status, three of which are protected land. Categories 1 and 2 prohibit natural land cover conversion entirely, category 3 allows for small areas of intensive use or broad areas of low-intensity use. Category 4 is unprotected. Scoring to compare land protection by watershed can most simply be done by summing the percent area by watershed in categories 1 - 3. The Protected Areas Database (http://www.protectedlands.net/dataportal/find.php Exit EPA Disclaimer) contains the GIS information for GAP. Other forms of land protection may be available at the state level.


applicable regulation (PDF) (2 pp, 45.4K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: As many restoration actions are voluntary, particularly nonpoint source control actions, the applicability of a regulatory requirement that adds greater certainty to actions that may partially or fully restore an impairment increases the prospects of recovery. Formal enforceable mechanisms not only improve the likelihood of pollution reduction directly, but also may encourage restoration partners and other restoration efforts affecting the same waterbody, in the knowledge that at least some progress will be made. One easily assessed example includes point source permitting, but several other state or federal regulatory links may influence impaired waters.

Data sources and measurement: Data availability varies according to the regulation, but the link to enforceable point source controls is one well documented regulatory connection. Data available from the Assessment TMDL Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS) (See: http://www.epa.gov/waters/ir/) contains information on 303(d)-listed waters by state and by semi-annual reporting cycle. Online via state or EPA websites (see also http://www.epa.gov/waters/tmdl/expert_query.html) identify impaired waters and waters with completed TMDLs as point source only, nonpoint source only, or mixed. Assessing this metric may be done as simply as distinguishing impaired waters that are nonpoint only from waters with some or all point sources, and this can be drawn from available GIS coverage of listed waters or TMDLs. Specific states or areas may have other regulations (e.g. riparian zone protections, conservation zoning) that may be directly mapped or can be extracted through mapping. Coastal information is available through NOAA's Legislative Atlas (See: http://csc-s-maps-q.csc.noaa.gov/legislativeatlas/index.html Exit EPA Disclaimer). For further regulatory information, the EPA has compiled a list of regulations by environmental topic (See: http://www.epa.gov/regulations/envtopics/index.html). Zoning maps are typically available from county and state sources.


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Level of information, certainty and planning

% identified stressor sources

Why relevant to recovery: Taking action to restore an impaired waterbody not only requires understanding the stressors impacting it but also the sources of those stressors. An impasse can occur when information on sources is incomplete, as loading reductions allocated to other sources may be insufficient to achieve recovery. Sources are as crucial to understanding causal pathways as are the stressors themselves.

Data sources and measurement: State monitoring and integrated reporting sometimes identifies probable source information, but this is an optional reporting field and not consistently present among attributes available through the Assessment TMDL Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS) (See: http://www.epa.gov/waters/ir/). Other state sources may be available, or landscape models may allow for estimates of probable sources.


certainty of restoration practices (PDF) (2 pp, 42.1K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: The development of restoration techniques and the knowledge of their range of applicability are still incomplete. Waters whose restoration can be accomplished by known, tested techniques are stronger prospects for recovery potential than those facing uncertainty about technique applicability or effectiveness. As track records are still being developed for many techniques, and settings vary so widely, uncertainty about techniques is still common. Extensive familiarity with techniques and their applicability is needed for applying this metric.

Data sources and measurement: have experts estimate the availability of applicable restoration techniques using the following scoring:

  • 0 - no restoration technique applicable;
  • 1 - technique applicability uncertain;
  • 2 - known technique moderately applicable and feasible;
  • 3 - known technique highly applicable and feasible.
Unlikely to be map-based information, but rather reliant on expert judgment of whether routine techniques for addressing specific impairments and settings are available. May be adapted to a geographic basis by first identifying waterbody type, size, and pollutant types from the 303(d) datasets, then having experts estimate the availability of applicable restoration techniques using the scoring described above. Various stream restoration techniques, searchable by region, are available through the National River Restoration Science Synthesis Database (See: http://nrrss.nbii.gov/ Exit EPA Disclaimer) and other online sources.  

TMDL or watershed plan (PDF) (3 pp, 51.2K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: Many different types of studies have observed that despite the potential for conflict about a plan's contents, a completed plan generally has a positive influence on community progress, understanding and acceptance of restoration efforts. Studies of success stories have noted that a sound plan was a major driving factor. A technical plan such as a TMDL provides a quantitative, scientific basis for guiding actions. Existing plans can also clarify misconceptions, increase recognition of common interests, indicate government support and service, and provide a basis for further collaborative planning or action.

Data sources and measurement: Impaired waters with available plans are best represented by completed TMDLs or, in the case on non-pollutant impairments, by CWA Section 319 watershed plans. A variety of other restoration or management plan types may be available in specific states or river basins. A national mapped dataset of waters with completed and approved TMDLs has been developed by EPA and is available through the Assessment TMDL Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS) (See: http://www.epa.gov/waters/ir/ and http://www.epa.gov/waters/data/downloads.html) or the Reach Address Database (RAD) (http://epamap32.epa.gov/radims/). EPA has also been collecting data on locations of section 319 projects since 2004 (see link to RAD above).


watershed education level (PDF) (2 pp, 28.2K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: Greater understanding of restoration activities and goals is generally associated with greater community support of restoration. This support may be associated in turn with specialized efforts to inform stakeholders about the local restoration setting, with general ability to understand restoration techniques and goals, or with both. Communities with generally higher levels of education may more quickly understand the advanced and complex descriptions typical of a restoration project and the environmental processes it will address. This metric may provide insight about earlier communication opportunities for reaching stakeholders, but may not necessarily imply higher support ultimately.

Data sources and measurement: This metric requires proportionally merging county-level educational attainment data from the Census with the watersheds being assessed, where watersheds overlap with multiple counties. The metric is assigned a score per watershed. Data on educational attainment are available for the U.S., states, counties, and subcounty statistical areas (such as zip codes and block groups), from 1940 to 2010 (see http://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/education/data/index.html Exit EPA Disclaimer).


ratio #TMDLs/#impairments

Why relevant to recovery: This metric indicates how much restoration planning progress has been made relative to the known and reported amount of impairments overall. On the basis of this factor, watersheds ranking more highly are better documented and prepared for more rapid implementation of restoration practices and recovery.

Data sources and measurement: The calculation involves comparing the number of TMDLs (i.e., individual water body segment/pollutant combinations) finalized with the number of impairments (i.e., also individual water body segment/pollutant combinations) in the watershed. Both are available from EPA as national geospatial datasets online. Cause information is available in attribute tables that are linked to 303(d) shape files of each state's impaired waters, through the Assessment TMDL Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS) (See: http://www.epa.gov/waters/ir/ and http://www.epa.gov/waters/data/downloads.html). A national mapped dataset of waters with completed and approved TMDLs has been developed by EPA and is available through the Assessment TMDL Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS) (See: http://www.epa.gov/waters/ir/ and http://www.epa.gov/waters/data/downloads.html) or the Reach Address Database (RAD) (http://epamap32.epa.gov/radims/).


% of stream miles assessed

Why relevant to recovery: This metric provides one measure of how thoroughly understood each watershed's impairments are. More thoroughly assessed watersheds leave less to the unknown factors that may inhibit recovery.

Data sources and measurement: States vary in the format and detail in which they document what waters have been assessed, but useful data are available in many areas. An assessed waters GIS national dataset has been developed by EPA from state-specific information and is available through the Assessment TMDL Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS) (See: http://www.epa.gov/waters/ir/ and http://www.epa.gov/waters/data/downloads.html).


% of lake acres assessed

Why relevant to recovery: This metric provides one measure of how thoroughly understood each watershed's impairments are. More thoroughly assessed watersheds leave less to the unknown factors that may inhibit recovery.

Data sources and measurement: States vary in the format and detail in which they document what waters have been assessed, but useful data are available in many areas. An assessed waters GIS national dataset has been developed by EPA from state-specific information and is available through the Assessment TMDL Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS) (See: http://www.epa.gov/waters/ir/ and http://www.epa.gov/waters/data/downloads.html).


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Restoration cost, difficulty, or complexity

estimated restoration cost (PDF) (3 pp, 23.6K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: The expense of restoration due to the numbers of impaired waters and the complexity of most restoration and remediation techniques is a well known, major factor influencing likelihood of success. Extreme expense may halt progress on a single restoration effort, either directly due to the unwanted financial burden or due to inability to compete with other, less expensive restoration sites as priorities are set. Prioritization often depends as much on economic issues as ecological concerns.

Data sources and measurement: Detailed estimates of full restoration cost are not likely to be available, nor necessary for a rough comparison. Expert judgment based on impairment type and number, system type and size may be used to assign high-medium-low expense categories to waters of interest. Not likely to be available in mapped form, although system size, impairment type and numbers from mapped 303(d) data may be used as surrogates for factors commonly affecting cost; cost for stream restoration projects is compiled in the National River Restoration Science Synthesis database (See: http://restoringrivers.org/newsite/nbii.html Exit EPA Disclaimer).


jurisdictional complexity (PDF) (2 pp, 39K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: The number of political jurisdictions within a watershed can negatively influence the speed and effectiveness of restoration activities. Watersheds with multiple political jurisdictions often require the establishment of a separate group to facilitate planning and consensus-building for environmental initiatives. Single-jurisdiction watersheds are usually less complicated in watershed planning interactions.

Data sources and measurement: Metric is total number of cities, counties, and towns wholly or partially within an impaired watershed. The measurement can involve counting a number of jurisdictions per reporting unit, and requires the City/County polygon shapefile (cnty.shp available from EPA-BASINS, See: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/BASINS/b3webdwn.htm). ArcGIS online contains data on national administrative boundaries (See: http://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=3b93337983e9436f8db950e38a8629af Exit EPA Disclaimer). If available, other jurisdictions may be added to the city/county dataset if these populated places typically become involved in land use decisions and restoration actions.


landownership complexity (PDF) (2 pp, 19.4K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: High amounts and high variety in types of private landownership in a watershed or stream corridor are likely to complicate efforts to restore an impaired water, and landownership pattern can rank among the highly influential factors. Negotiating management practices, easements or land purchases becomes complicated in fragmented ownership. Public lands often are the site of many restoration projects as a result. Single ownership-dominated watersheds, particularly where public land predominates, may optimize landownership pattern for likelihood of restoration success.

Data sources and measurement: Possible to measure on a watershed or corridor basis, as desired. Can be most simply applied as presence/absence of over half public landownership, or if data allow, as percents in public/private ownership. One reasonable surrogate for complexity in terms of numbers of owners/stakeholders is the number of low, medium and high-density urban land cover polygons per unit of area.


recovery time frame

Why relevant to recovery: Whereas the necessary time frame for recovery may not always directly relate to the difficulty of recovery, longer recovery times do bear the burden of needing sustained public and technical support over prolonged periods while usually being unable to provide short term evidence of success. This can be an added social burden beyond the usual complexity of developing long term recoveries.

Data sources and measurement: Although data specifically estimating recovery times is not common, several easily measured traits generally translate into longer recoveries. On the basic premise that larger ecosystems are more complex and slower to degrade and to recover, watershed size or waterbody size can be used as a surrogate for assumptions about recovery time frame. Type of impairments can vary in their implications for recovery time. If Watershed Boundary Dataset HUC12 units are used as the basis for watershed assessment, the number of upstream HUCs can be identified as another manner of determining larger watershed implications on recovery of a specific, drainage-based component.


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Socio-economic considerations

Environmental Justice area of concern

Why relevant to recovery: EJ areas do not present a consistently positive or negative association with restorability, but can be a very important factor in either case. Highly populous urban EJ areas may have lower recovery potential associated with being densely populated watersheds, often with legacy land uses and pollutants, but may have eligibility for additional sources of restoration support not available to other watersheds. Rural EJ situations may share the eligibility advantage, plus sometimes have less intensive land use pressures and less pollutant loading. A wide range of restoration-relevant circumstances may exist in any given area.

Data sources and measurement: Development of EJ-related metrics is project-specific. It may not be feasible to develop an EJ metric that is directionally consistent in all cases. One option for using EJ information in recovery potential screening is as a subset of watersheds, in order to compare EJ areas only to one another on the basis of multiple restorability factors.


local socio-economic stress (PDF) (4 pp, 58.5K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: A community's socio-economic well-being or lack thereof can have mixed effects on community views about the prospects for restoration. A distressed rural area may be inclined to see restoration negatively if additional restrictions, expenses or loss of economic options are assumed. In contrast, restorations that may increase property value, provide restoration project jobs and an improved recreational economy may be welcomed. Generally, whereas perceptions in distressed areas provide an obstacle, the ultimate effects of a restoration often provide a welcome improvement. This metric can be used as a negative input to the overall social context score if it is based on perceptions of distressed communities, or as a positive input to the score if based on the potential economic benefits to distressed areas - thus a choice is necessary before each screening use.

Data sources and measurement: This metric is drawn directly from measures developed by the Sonoran Institute in 2005. Nine measures were originally published. These included high-distress interpretations of:

  1. long-term employment change;
  2. unemployment rate;
  3. per capita income;
  4. families living under poverty;
  5. educational attainment;
  6. housing affordability;
  7. short-term employment change;
  8. population change; and
  9. natural disaster risk.
The measures can be aggregated into a single value, used singly, or in other combinations. The aggregated index value is reported on county level, which then needs to be transposed to a watershed or stream corridor value by proportional averaging in order to relate it to impaired waters recovery potential screening. The primary data sources for the nine component metrics used by the Sonoran Institute study are all nationally available GIS datasets, available from the US Dept of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (long and short term employment change, per capita income, housing affordability, See: http://www.bea.gov/ Exit EPA Disclaimer), Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment rate, natural disaster risk, See: http://www.bls.gov/data/ Exit EPA Disclaimer), and Census Bureau (population change, families living under poverty, educational attainment, See: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml Exit EPA Disclaimer). Generally these are county-aggregated datasets although finer, census-tract data are available for the Census Bureau elements. NOAA has developed spatial trends in socioeconomics for coastal areas (See: http://www.csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/data/stics/index.html Exit EPA Disclaimer). ArcGIS online offers a number of compiled map services on socio-economic data that can be opened directly in ArcMap (http://www.arcgis.com/home/gallery.html Exit EPA Disclaimer).  

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Human health, beneficial uses, recognition and incentives

watershed population

Why relevant to recovery: Population density does have implications for recovery potential but they differ in directionality. More dense population is generally associated with multiple stressors of higher magnitude that are generally more difficult and expensive to remediate. On the other hand, higher populations are associated with better information flow and education, which are credited as background reasons why more highly populous areas often support restoration with greater interest. Project-specific consideration is recommended before using this metric.

Data sources and measurement: Census information can be adapted to a watershed basis or used in its original form as census tract or county information. See Census Bureau sources online (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml Exit EPA Disclaimer).


recreational resource (PDF) (3 pp, 48.4K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: Public support of restoration funding uses is often strongly tied to expectations of access and outdoor recreational benefit from the restoration investment. In contrast, inaccessible and privately owned waters with impairment problems may struggle for restoration funding from public sources due to limited community support. An observable pattern of restoration projects largely on public and recreationally accessible lands is attributable largely to this factor.

Data sources and measurement: Scoring is based on water body location in relation to the recreational land category, as 0 = water passes through no recreational use lands; 1 = water is partially within recreational use lands; 2 = water is completely within recreational use lands. Statewide GIS shapefiles at a minimum should include State Conservation Areas, State Forests, State Fish and Wildlife Areas, and State Parks, and other recreational land types where available. The Protected Area Database contains nationwide information on recreation areas (See: http://www.protectedlands.net/dataportal/find.php Exit EPA Disclaimer). ArcGIS online contains a number of mapping services of recreation areas nationwide (See: http://www.arcgis.com/home/search.html?q=recreation&t=content Exit EPA Disclaimer). Statewide GIS shapefiles at a minimum should include State Conservation Areas, State Forests, State Fish and Wildlife Areas, and State Parks, and other recreational land types where available.


watershed # drinking water intakes

Why relevant to recovery: Association with public drinking water is one of the most powerful traits a watershed can have, concerning the need to demonstrate public support for restoration. This metric can provide a count of surface water and groundwater resources in use for drinking water.

Data sources and measurement: Exact locations of most drinking water intakes are not publicly available for security reasons, but can usually be obtained as more generalized information on a small watershed basis or topographic quad basis. EPA has developed national data relating drinking water intakes to HUC12 watersheds.


watershed % source water protection area

Why relevant to recovery: Association with public drinking water is one of the most powerful traits a watershed can have, concerning the need to demonstrate public support for restoration. This metric can provide an area measurement associated with surface water and groundwater resources in use for drinking water.

Data sources and measurement: Exact locations may be security-limited but generalized areas associated with drinking water sources can be obtained. EPA has developed national data relating source water protection areas to HUC12 watersheds.


valued ecological attribute (PDF) (3 pp, 54.5K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: Community support for restoration is motivated by widely-shared recognition of a site's value, often in the form of natural aesthetics, biodiversity, rarity, charismatic species, outdoor sport e.g. fishing, or ecological goods and services. Formalized designation of a valued site not only reflects those original beliefs in the worth of an area but also reinforces the perception of its value with others, thereby strengthening the prospects for public support of its restoration.

Data sources and measurement: This metric is most easily based on formal recognition and designation by one of several programs that are generally aligned with protecting biodiversity, aesthetics, recreational sport, or other uses. The metric can be scored as a basic presence/absence metric, or high/medium/low/none rankings can be defined according to the available data. Geo-spatial data sources on rarity and biodiversity include NatureServe data systems (See: http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/ Exit EPA Disclaimer) and state natural heritage databases (See: http://www.natureserve.org/getData/programData.jsp#A Exit EPA Disclaimer). Other designations with spatial data available include Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers (See: http://www.rivers.gov/maps.html Exit EPA Disclaimer), and Outstanding Natural Resource Waters under CWA. A number of cultural datasets can be obtained through ArcGIS online (See: http://www.arcgis.com/home/search.html?q=cultural&t=content Exit EPA Disclaimer). Fisheries programs at state and federal level may also have recognition categories such as 'blue ribbon' or Class A fisheries.


funding eligibility (PDF) (2 pp, 16.6K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: As adequate funding is widely recognized as a major driver of restoration success, eligibility for significant restoration sources is a strong influence on the social context for recovery potential. Waters without eligibility for restoration funding may have very limited opportunities especially if facing an expensive restoration effort. A major amount of restoration takes place through relatively few funding sources, thus eligibility for those sources can be crucial. Some major federal sources with limited eligibility include Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source funds and State Revolving Funds; USDA agricultural programs such as WHIP, EQIP, CREP, CSP and WRP; and SMCRAA abandoned minelands remediation funds.

Data sources and measurement: Crosswalk watershed boundaries for impaired waters of interest with selected funding programs either by currently active project information, or by implied eligibility determined from existing spatial data (e.g. agricultural activities, abandoned minelands). Scoring can be done by presence/absence of eligibility for selected or any funding sources, or by total counts of eligible programs, by watershed.


human health and safety (PDF) (2 pp, 44.9K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: Among decision-makers and communities alike, the relevance to human health or safety has always been among the most powerful criteria for determining the importance of an activity. Some environmental restorations are needed in part because of health and safety hazards that accompany environmental degradation - for example, many abandoned mineland settings and hazardous waste remediation activities. When human health and safety risks are involved, the degree of support for a restoration effort is boosted above the support based on environmental factors alone, and the positive social context for recovery potential is increased.

Data sources and measurement: This metric generally relies upon site-specific monitoring data to verify the risk. Such data are available from hazardous waste, mining or other programs. Flooding or storm risks, where involved in a restoration action that will explicitly reduce those risks, may also be attributed to this metric. Scoring may be performed as simple presence/absence of risk or assigned a severity scale, depending on available data and its consistency. Some example sources include beach closing information (See: http://iaspub.epa.gov/waters10/beacon_national_page.main), searchable data as part of the Toxics Release Inventory (See: http://www.epa.gov/tri/tridata/index.htm) and hazardous waste geographical queries through the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (See: http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/rcris/rcris_query_java.html).


iconic value of resource (PDF) (3 pp, 53.1K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: A large number of communities grew around a well-known water body and identify heavily with it in their local culture and history. Others have come to recognize and appreciate the economic or recreational uses and positive impacts a prominent local water body may have on their community well-being and assets. In situations where the best-known and important water body has become impaired, this information can motivate communities very strongly to support restoration.

Data sources and measurement: There is no standard measure for how communities identify with specific water bodies, but it is easily recognized at local scales. Among the ways to address this factor are to recognize tributaries that can impact the iconic water body (such as, tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay drainage versus ones that are not) and raise their recovery potential scores.


303(d) schedule priority (PDF) (2 pp, 41.7K, About PDF)

Why relevant to recovery: For pollutant-impaired waters that will undergo TMDL development en route to their restoration, Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations require states to prioritize the current 303(d) listed waters for TMDL development in a schedule. High priority waters on this schedule have the best chance of accelerated action toward their recovery. Faster, earlier restoration may also decrease the likelihood that continuing degradation will meanwhile progress further and lead to greater losses of ecological function and beneficial uses.

Data sources and measurement: High, medium and low priority categories are assigned by states to the 303(d)-listed waters they list each cycle, indicating relative priority for TMDL development. If the recovery potential screening involves only listed waters without TMDLs (e.g. the most recent listing cycle only, where prioritized schedule has been completed), this metric is appropriate for use. The metric is inappropriate for non-303(d) waters or for screening waters that already have TMDLs or watershed plans, or where the recovery potential screening is intended to provide the basis for 303(d) schedule priority-setting.

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