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Rapid Watershed Assessments


The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is encouraging the development of rapid watershed assessments in order to increase the speed and efficiency generating information to guide conservation implementation, as well as the speed and efficiency of putting it into the hands of local decision makers.

Fact Sheet

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April 2007 RWA Fact Sheet (2.25 MB)

Background Information

Rapid watershed assessments provide initial estimates of where conservation investments would best address the concerns of landowners, conservation districts, and other community organizations and stakeholders. These assessments help land-owners and local leaders set priorities and determine the best actions to achieve their goals.

These assessments are conducted by watershed planning teams traveling through each watershed, meeting with landowners and conservation groups, inventorying agricultural areas, identifying conservation opportunities and current levels of resource management, and estimating impacts of these opportunities on the local priority resource concerns.

Benefits of These Activities

While these rapid assessments provide less detail and analysis than full-blown studies and plans, they do provide the benefits of NRCS locally-led planning in less time and at a reduced cost. The benefits include:

  • Quick and inexpensive plans for setting priorities and taking action
  • Providing a level of detail that is sufficient for identifying actions that can be taken with no further watershed-level studies or analyses
  • Actions to be taken may require further Federal or State permits or ESA or NEPA analysis but these activities are part of standard requirements for use of best management practices (BMPs) and conservation systems
  • Identifying where further detailed analyses or watershed studies are needed
  • Plans address multiple objectives and concerns of landowners and communities
  • Plans are based on established partnerships at the local and state levels
  • Plans enable landowners and communities to decide on the best mix of NRCS programs that will meet their goals
  • Plans include the full array of conservation program tools (i.e. cost-share practices, easements, technical assistance)

NRCS Rapid Watershed Assessment (RWA) Guidance

The guidance document has been split into multiple parts for faster downloading.

These documents require Adobe Acrobat reader.

Subpart A--Background and Purpose (PDF, 192KB)

Subpart B--Procedures (PDF, 26KB)

Subpart C--Additional Assessment (PDF, 16KB)

Subpart D--Exhibits (PDF, 10KB)

Sample Plan of Work (PDF, 26KB)

Sample Hydrologic Resource Profile (PDF, 2MB)

Sample Summary Matrix (PDF, 23KB)

Rapid Watershed Assessment Training--Net Conference Materials, March 26, 2008

These documents require Adobe Acrobat reader.

RWA Training Overview (PDF, 605KB)

RWA Organizational Process-Tom Krapf, Wisconsin NRCS (PDF, 2.32MB)

RWA GIS, Data, and Cartographic Elements-Chris Morse, Wisconsin NRCS and Peter Mead, Minnesota NRCS (PDF, 4.99MB)

RWA Development of Summary Matrix-Allan Sommer, Minnesota NRCS (PDF, 590KB)

Adding Value to the RWA Process-Tim Sweeney, NWMC NRCS (PDF, 4.3MB)

Compressing Large Files Demonstration (PDF, 1.51MB)

RWA Contact for Further Information (PDF, 23KB)

Additional Information

Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) Watershed Studies

Links to State RWA pages

Map of rapid watershed assessments and watershed plans funded in Fiscal Years 2006, 2007 and 2008


NRCS State RWA Contacts (XLS, 30KB)

RWA Matrix Tool - Oregon NRCS Template (XLS, 1.9MB)

This document requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

2007 Funded RWA Proposal by State (PDF, 29KB)

Watersheds, Hydologic Unit Codes, Watershed Approach, and Rapid Watershed Assessments Definitions (PDF, 129KB)


RWA Matrix Tool - Oregon NRCS Template - Instructions for RWA Matrix tool - NY and OR NRCS (DOC, 2.7MB)