Elevated turbidity events in the Schoharie watershed adversely impact aquatic habitat, local recreational uses, and can interfere with disinfection processes for NYC's drinking water supply. The Schoharie Turbidity Reduction Strategy (STRS) is the outcome of a proactive planning process designed to expand water quality protection at the local level across the Schoharie Watershed. The strategy relied on a diverse group of watershed partners, particularly local decision-makers, to promote watershed scale recommendations that strengthen the communities' ability to recognize and address potential water quality threats. The STRS began in June, 2006 and was completed in March, 2008. A step-by-step overview of the project including the roles of the Schoharie Basin Working Group, the Steering Committee, and the Focus Groups can be found in the summary document: STRS Project Overview.
While the stream management plans provide a detailed focus on the main stream systems, they also identify general recommendations related to land use planning on topics such as education and outreach, stormwater, and floodplain management. However, in 2006 there was no program or mechanism in place to comprehensively extend these recommendations to the entire watershed community. Recognizing this gap, the GCSWCD received a New York State Department of State grant to initiate a watershed-wide strategy that focuses on the broader stream management plan stewardship recommendations that apply to all municipalities in the watershed.
Strategy Goals & Findings
The goal of the STRS was to develop a local, action based plan (2.8 Mb .pdf) for addressing water quality problems, namely turbidity levels, in the Schoharie basin by building upon general recommendations in the stream management plans. Through its Watershed Assistance Program (WAP), the GCSWCD brought together a diverse group of local officials, interested property owners, and watershed management agencies to take the lead in developing practical solutions for water quality protection across the entire basin.
The expanded approach is based on the principle that planning at the watershed scale (as opposed to the municipal scale) is more effective in terms of water quality protection and cost savings. Moreover, it encourages local level oversight and control, which, in a state that espouses home rule governance, puts the responsibility more on the shoulders of local governments and departments to protect resources as opposed to being regulated by outside agencies. Soliciting the involvement of property owners and local decision-makers to address non-point source pollution from the "ground up" is the primary focus of the strategy. The grassroots effort is designed to empower all local communities in the basin to work together and learn from one another about the status of water quality and what implementation measures should be taken to minimize its degradation.