Watershed Planning

Watershed Planning

A Strategy for Every Watershed

A watershed is an area of land where all of the water that falls within it drains to a common point, such as a stream or lake. RiverLink works to improve water quality within the 2,830 square-mile French Broad River Watershed in North Carolina. This large watershed is composed of many smaller sub-watersheds, each associated with a tributary of the river. RiverLink utilizes watershed planning as a tool to strategize and increase the impact of our water conservation efforts.

Watershed plans serve as a guide for RiverLink and our partners to improving and maintaining water quality in our region. Watershed planning begins with stakeholder engagement and partnership building. Due to the complex nature of water quality issues, partnerships within a particular watershed are critical to finding solutions. The next step is a comprehensive study of the watershed to identify specific water quality issues, along with their sources and causes. Actions to address water quality issues are determined, along with measurable goals and an implementation plan. The implementation plan includes criteria that will be used to measure progress towards meeting the goals of the watershed plan. When complete, a watershed plan can be shared with partners and made available to the general public.

Smith Mill Creek Watershed


Completed in April 2017, the Smith Mill Creek 9-element Watershed Plan was funded by Clean Water Management Trust Fund of N.C. and the Pigeon River Fund with the following goals:

  • Understand and document the current status of water quality, flooding and related issues through stakeholder input and direct observation (sampling, fieldwork, etc.).
  • Enhance and expand network of partners focused on watershed and social improvements in the Smith Mill Creek watershed.
  • Identify opportunities to conduct education, community projects, and larger capital projects to improve water quality.
  • Identify needs and steps to implement various opportunities.

In lieu of a static report, Riverlink chose to pursue the preparation of a digital plan that would be comprised of several outreach, mapping and management tools. In digital form, the watershed plan is easily updated and more readily available to the general public and project partners. With a focus on education, the Outreach application (app) is geared towards the general public. Residents can also report water quality issues or post events related to improving the Smith Mill Creek Watershed through the Report SMC and Engage SMC crowdsourcing application. There is also a Proposed Priority Projects app showing the best enhancement opportunities that were identified in the watershed.