Regional water planning and the National Estuary Program
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Water availability, supply, accessibility, and quality issues are becoming urgent issues around the globe. Planning and management of water resources is both complicated and different in every state for every type of water resource. Estuaries are among the most important ecosystems in the world, in terms of their ecological and economic value. The many problems facing estuaries across the nation led to an effort by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect these valuable resources and to characterize their conditions. The National Estuary Program (NEP) was established in 1987, under an amendment to the Clean Water Act to address estuarine issues and planning. Three NEP case studies, Galveston Bay Estuary Program, San Francisco Bay Estuary Program, and Tampa Bay Estuary Program provide insight into the functions, capacities and potential of the NEP. Estuary Programs can be located in a variety of institutional settings, and these case studies evaluate the institutional structure of the individual estuary program in the context of their state political environments. These programs provide interesting management and planning challenges, as estuaries do not conform to exact political jurisdictions, so NEP’s define their management areas according to watershed boundaries and their ecosystems in an effort to provide comprehensive estuarine planning and management. This professional report will evaluate these three case studies to determine the role of the NEP in regional water planning and estuarine management.