Organize decisionmaking boundaries to fit the issue at hand when dealing with engineered hydrologic systems where economic or social systems are involved. A slavish adherence to watershed boundaries can lead to missed opportunities and inefficient decisions when factors such as interbasin transfers of water and power create a hydrologic system that operates outside the natural watershed boundaries. No one arrangement fits all situations, and flexibility is important.
With respect to scale in dealing with hydrologic issues, the organization scale should fit the scale of the natural system. The management of water and closely related resources of small watersheds should be handled by local organizations, while larger scale organizations should deal with aggregations or nested hierarchies of smaller units. Larger, more encompassing organizations can help resolve local differences. Some functions, such as land use planning and zoning, are best left to local levels of governmental organization, while other tasks such as setting regulatory standards are best left to the national level. No one size fits all situations.
New organizational strategies must recognize the limitations of transfer of powers. The historical development of governmental organizations in the United States dictates a certain distribution of powers among levels and among agencies within the same level. Watershed management through newly defined organizations will not succeed unless there is a transfer of powers from these established agencies, often an unlikely scenario. Therefore, watershed management in the United States is often best accomplished through partnerships of existing agencies that work together in ad hoc arrangements for particular watersheds.
Watershed organizations are most successful if they are self-organizing from the grass-roots level, rather than having an organizational structure imposed by national fiat. In the United States, regional variations in the natural environment, customs, politics, financial resources, and existing distribution of powers are so great that a national overlay of proposed watershed organizations is unlikely to be successful. The most effective watershed organizations seen by the committee are those that developed from local needs focused on particular problems. Successful organizations often solved one initial problem before expanding their interests to attack other issues.
Individuals make a difference—they create organizations and drive their success. In field visits and workshops, the committee found that the most successful organizations were the product of the initial effort of one individual or of a small group of persons. These few individuals committed themselves to addressing a problem of local or regional extent and exerted enthusiasm and leadership to organize for a solution. We should not underestimate the power people have to identify problems and take action to solve them.