Water resources include both surface water and groundwater sources. The BLM’s Soil, Water, Air Program leads efforts to assess and restore water quality conditions, and to manage water resources on public lands.  Clean and adequate supplies of water are necessary to promote healthy watersheds, provide safe habitat for fish and wildlife, maintain drinking water sources, allow for safe recreational use of our surface water, and maintain healthy plant communities. The quality of water generated on public lands is just as important as the quantity and is integral to successful management of water resources.

The BLM's 5-year strategy for the water resources program highlights management challenges when aligning the diverse roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and tribal governments, along with local agencies.  The goals of the strategy include:

  • Reducing and limiting the discharge of pollutants and sediments into water resources.
  • Incorporating collaborative, regional watershed assessments into BLM planning efforts to  understand potential impacts to watersheds from land use decisions.
  • Improving water quality monitoring through the National Aquatic Monitoring Framework, a component of the Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring (AIM) Strategy.
  • Partnering with other agencies and stakeholders to design and implement landscape scale restoration projects in priority watersheds.
  • Enhancing and then maintaining the BLM’s technical expertise by supporting and training water resource specialists, such as hydrologists, ecologists, and aquatic biologists. 
  • Implementing Executive Order 13547 Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes which calls for protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health and biological diversity of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources. Read more about Executive Order 13547.

How We Measure Success

The BLM is responsible for protecting water quality based on mandates in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the Clean Water Act, and other laws and regulations.  The BLM cooperates with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states, and tribes who establish water quality standards, conduct assessments, and identify water bodies that do not meet standards.  The BLM analyzes proposed uses of the public lands, and develops mitigation measures to prevent negative impacts to water quality as a result of those uses. 

The BLM’s land health assessments require the BLM to determine if applicable water quality standards are met, or whether there is significant progress toward achieving compliance with water quality standards.