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Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program

Background. The Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program (Watershed Operations) includes the Flood Prevention Operations Program authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-534) and the provisions of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954 (P.L. 83-566). The Flood Control Act originally authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to install watershed improvement measures in 11 watersheds, also known as pilot watersheds, to reduce flood, sedimentation, and erosion damage; improve the conservation, development, utilization, and disposal of water; and advance the conservation and proper utilization of land. The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act provides for cooperation between the Federal government and the States and their political subdivisions in a program to prevent erosion, floodwater, and sediment damage; to further the conservation, development, utilization, and disposal of water; and to further the conservation and proper utilization of land in authorized watersheds.

Watch the progress of the construction of the Duck Creek Watershed Project in southeast Nebraska HERE.


There are over 1,300 active or completed watershed projects. Assistance may be provided in authorized watershed projects to install conservation practices and project measures (works of improvement) throughout the watershed project area. The planned works of improvement are described in watershed project plans and are normally scheduled to be installed over multiple years. All works of improvement, including floodwater retarding dams and reservoirs, are owned and operated by the sponsoring local organizations and participating individuals.

The Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program provides technical and financial assistance to States, local governments and Tribes (project sponsors) to plan and implement authorized watershed project plans for the purpose of:

  • watershed protection
  • flood mitigation
  • water quality improvements
  • soil erosion reduction
  • rural, municipal and industrial water supply
  • irrigation
  • water management
  • sediment control
  • fish and wildlife enhancement
  • hydropower

Under the Watershed Program NRCS cooperates with States and local agencies to carry out works of improvement for soil conservation and for other purposes including flood prevention; conservation, development, utilization and disposal of water; and conservation and proper utilization of land.

National Watershed Program Manual and Handbook

The documents below require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

National Watershed Program Manual (PDF, 80KB)
National Watershed Program Handbook (PDF, 2.81MB)

A Locally Led Program

Project sponsors are provided assistance in installing planned land treatment measures when plans are approved. Surveys and investigations are made and detailed designs, specifications, and engineering cost estimates are prepared for construction of structural measures. Areas where sponsors need to obtain land rights, easements, and rights-of-way are delineated. Technical assistance is also furnished to landowners and operators to accelerate planning and application of needed conservation measures on their individual land units.

How The Program Works

NRCS does watershed planning in the following ways:

  • Sponsoring local organizations can request that watershed project plans be authorized for Federal Watershed Operations funding assistance.

  • Watershed plans involving Federal contributions in excess of $5,000,000 for contribution, or construction of any single structure having a capacity in excess of 2,500 acre feet, require Congressional approval.

  • Other plans can be authorized for Federal funding by the Chief of NRCS.

  • After approval, technical and financial assistance can be provided for installation of works of improvement specified in the plans, subject to annual appropriations, through Watershed Operations.

Technical and Financial Assistance

Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations provides technical and financial assistance in authorized watershed projects which have public sponsors who:

  • Conduct public meetings to assure local involvement

  • Obtain all land and water rights and permits required for the installation of works of improvement

  • Provide local share of funds to install works of improvement

  • Operate and maintain works of improvement

Eligibility Authorized Watershed Projects

Criteria include:

  • Public sponsorship

  • Watershed projects up to 250,000 acres

  • Benefits that are directly related to agriculture, including rural communities, that are at least 20 percent of the total benefits of the project

Funds for Watershed Projects

Funds that may be available for watershed projects are subject to the following:

  • Annual Congressional appropriations

  • State and national resource priorities

  • Acquisition of land and water rights, permits

  • Local funding established for specific project measures

  • Completion of structural, agronomic, and vegetative designs for project measures

  • NRCS and the project sponsor approval of an Operation and Maintenance Agreement involving the measures to be installed

















































Additional Information