Nine Key Element Planning

Non-point pollution, or runoff from rural and urban areas, is increasingly polluting our water resources. The EPA estimates non-point pollution is the leading cause for the 40% of our nation’s streams and rivers that do not meet water quality standards.

To better address the issues of non-point pollution, the US EPA developed guidance for Nine Minimum (Key) Elements of watershed planning that allow watershed planners to evaluate non-point pollution control in a long term and adaptive manner, unlike more traditional “end-of-pipe” technology upgrades that may achieve faster results, but at a much higher economic cost. The Nine Element framework spans ten years and encourages collaboration among numerous stakeholders, including property owners, farmers, permitted point source, and NGOs, among others. When collaborating, resources can be pooled and progress can be made in a much more cost effective manner. In addition to guiding the next ten years of watershed restoration for a region, approved Nine Key Element plans will ensure its eligibility for a variety of funding sources including several non-point pollution runoff grants and water related Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding.

Over the last year Sweet Water and partners have begun developing Nine Key Element plans for several watersheds in the Greater Milwaukee Area. While Nine Key Element Plans are typically focused on only water quality improvement, Sweet Water recognized that true watershed restoration requires a plan that moves the needle on multiple fronts including improvements in water quality, managing water quantity, addressing aquatic and terrestrial habitat, and creating new opportunities for recreation and access to our shared water resources. A final draft has been completed for the Kinnickinnic Watershed and a final draft for the Menomonee Watershed will be completed early this year. These plans compile and combine the decades of past watershed planning and modeling in the region with newer plans still under development, into one overarching report that is complaint with EPA’s Nine Elements.

While not identical to the TMDL implementation plans, the Nine Key Element Plans do include TMDL pollutant targets and priority projects that can be used by point sources to achieve compliance with their allocations. Essentially, Sweet Water intends for the Nine Key Element plans to supplement and support any TMDL implementation work in the region.

To learn more about Nine Key Element Plans or the progress of the Kinnickinnic and Menomonee plans, contact Kaity Taylor at