New Watershed Framework

Wednesday, Jun 15th, 2022

By Debbie Franco, Managing Director, Water Solutions Network

If Congress had not summarily dismissed John Wesley Powell’s vision of watersheds in the American West in the late 1890s, we would not find ourselves trying to retrace our steps to that pivotal moment. One stroke of a pen unleashed generations of silos that continue to allow for the exploitation of our most precious natural resources and the perpetuation of both embedded and overt inequities. The elegance of Powell’s watersheds was in the revolutionary concept of integrating land and water, something unheard of in his era. Connecting the two would not have been a silver bullet, but it would have made it much harder to justify siloing naturally interdependent systems.

One hundred and thirty years of organizational and physical infrastructure later, we face a climate catastrophe the magnitude of which challenges every assumption we’ve made about how humans live on this planet. The recently released Water Solutions Network Watershed Framework is an opportunity to recover what was lost when Manifest Destiny, political jurisdictions, and greed prevailed over the health of our watersheds. The Watershed Framework is designed to reintegrate humans into the ecosystems of which we are, sometimes, a reluctant part. At its essence, it is a pathway toward realizing and embracing our interconnectedness with each other and the natural systems that give us life.

The Framework is an invitation to leap into an uncertain future. It asks us to accept the discomfort of not having all the answers but also to embrace the commitment to acting and learning together. We look forward to learning with others who have and are developing processes and capacity that brings people together to accomplish more than they could on their own. We invite opportunities and partnerships to test-drive the WSN Watershed Framework in willing watersheds. We applaud everyone working toward this end, especially Tribal leaders who are willing to share the expertise they carry from thousands of years of living in this place. Nothing less than human survival depends on our shared efforts.

Thank you to everyone who contributed and participated in developing the WSN Watershed Framework. This work would not have been possible without the generous support of the Water Foundation. The report that follows is a reflection of the wisdom and insight that every participant brought to the conversation. We are grateful for the time and support offered by so many and we would welcome your thoughts and ideas as we look to the future.

To review the Framework, click below.

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