Lesson 29 Watershed Planning and Project Formulation

29.1 Scope of Watershed Planning

The watershed planning implies, the judicious use of all the watershed resources to achieve maximum benefit with minimum loss/hazard to the natural resources i.e. land, vegetation and water for the well being of people. The planning should be carried out on the individual watershed basis. The task of watershed planning includes the treatment of land by using most suitable biological and engineering measures in such a manner that, the work must be economical and socially acceptable.

29.2 Objective and Benefits of Watershed Planning

Objectives: The different probable objectives for watershed management planning may be cited as under:

  • To control damaging runoff and degradation and thereby conservation of soil and water.

  • To manage and utilize the runoff for useful purposes of watershed development concern.

  • To protect, conserve and improve the land of watershed for more efficient and sustained production.

  • To protect and enhance the water resources originating in the watershed.

  • To check the soil erosion and reduce the effect of sediment yield on the watershed.

  • To rehabilitate the deteriorating lands.

  • To moderate the flood peaks at the downstream area.

  • To establish watershed management practices and measures.

  • To enhance the groundwater recharge, wherever applicable.

  • To improve and increase the production of timbers, ranges, and wild life resources.

  • To intensify agricultural extension activities.

Benefits: The benefits of watershed planning can be categorized in three aspects- environmental, social and financial.

1.     Environmental Benefits:

  • Improves quality of water for drinking and recreational use.

  • Enhances water supply.

  • Protects wildlife habitat and improves natural resources.

  • Controls flooding by restoring riparian and wetland areas

2.     Community/Societal Benefits:

  • Directly involves community members in developing a vision for the future of the watershed.

  • Provides opportunities to educate citizens on protecting and fixing the environment that do not conflict with current and future development.

  • Gives citizens an active voice in protecting and restoring natural resources that are important to them.

  • Provides opportunities to cooperate with neighboring communities.

3.     Financial Benefits:

  • Reduces costs for meeting regulations and fixing damage that would happen if sensitive areas are developed.

  • Reduces costs for drinking water treatment.

  • Improves availability of water for improving cropping intensity and thus the production.

  • Provides a new organization through which to get grants to improve the environment.

29.3 Developing Steps of Watershed Planning

In order to achieve the different objectives selected for watershed planning, it is necessary to go through the distinct steps:

  • Recognition of problems.

  • Analysis to determine the causes of watershed problem.

  • Development of alternative solutions for the objectives formulated to solve the problem.

  • Selection of best solution.

  • Application of selected solution.

  • Protection and improvement of works, which have already been implemented.

The above steps can further be grouped in following four phases; i.e. recognition phase, restoration phase, protection phase and improvement phase.

1.     Recognition Phase

Under this phase, the recognition of watershed problems, their probable causes and development of alternatives for them, are described, which is carried out by conducting several surveys such as:

a)     Soil survey

b)    Land capability survey

c)     Agronomic survey

d)    Forest lands under permanent vegetation survey

e)     Engineering survey

f)      Socio-economic survey

These surveys are made to ascertain the watershed’s problems, qualitatively and quantitatively, to constitute a guide line for deciding the land treatment measures. Furthermore, the compilation of these surveys and collected information are analyzed to determine the nature of watershed’s problem, causes of problem and effect of the problems on land unit as human beings, too. All these information obtained so make a basis to select alternatives for rectification of problems and fulfillment of management objectives.

2.     Restoration Phase

This phase covers the task of selection of best solutions and their applications for watershed management. In other way, this phase comes after recognized problems, in which treatment measures are applied to critical areas for the recognized problems, identified earlier during recognized phase, so that these critical areas can be restored to the pre-deterioration stages. In forthcoming phase, the proper treatment measures, which will include the biological and engineering measures, are implemented to all types of land falling under watershed.

3.     Protection Phase

It is third phase of watershed management, in which general health of watershed is taken care of to ensure normal working. In addition to this, the protection of watershed against all those factors which cause deterioration is also carried out. The protection is preferably made on the critical areas, which are restored in the phase of restoration.

4.     Improvement Phase

This is the last phase, has precedential importance in watershed management work. Under this phase, the overall improvements made during management of watershed are evaluated for all the lands covered. In addition, attention should be given to make improvement on agricultural land, forest land, forage production, pasture land and socio-economic status of the people.

29.4 Formulation of Watershed Project

Formulation of watershed projects involve careful analysis of available resources, defining the problem, formulation of objectives, steps wise work plan to achieve the objectives within defined time and optimum available budget. Detail of these aspects are presented in brief as below.

29.4.1 Definition/Description of Problem

The problems such as: flood, drought, erosion and sediment damage and other problems related to the conservation, development, utilization, disposal of water originating in the watershed etc are considered under this section. Major problems are outlined as under:

Flood Damage:  The following points are considered to evaluate the flood damage occurred in a watershed

  1. Amount and value of land improvements and other properties exposed to the flood hazards in the watershed.

  2. Frequency of flood occurrence.

  3. Significance of small frequent floods or large infrequent floods in total flood problems.

  4. Limitations

Sediment Damage: The problems exposed by sediment deposition are considered in following cases:

  1. Problems of reservoir sedimentation

  2. Problems of channel silting

  3. Drainage problem

  4. Irrigation development

  5. Loss of agricultural land

Erosion Damage: The problems of erosion damage are studied under the following contents:

  1. Extent of sheet, gully and channel erosion.

  2. Downstream damage due to sediment deposition.

  3. Effect on agricultural production due to erosion.

  4. General effects on watershed’s economy.

Water Management Problem: It includes the detail on irrigation needs, drainage, water supply required for agriculture and non-agricultural uses and other management needs.

Special Problems: The problems such as: land slip, land slide, highway erosion, mines etc. are counted for preparation of watershed work plan.  

29.4.2 Stepwise Work Plan

Main proposal is divided in different sections.


In this section, a brief report about project area is cited, which includes following details:

  1. General features

  2. Demography

  3. Economy

  4. Geology

  5. Climate

  6. Water resources: surface and subsurface water rights and laws.

  7. Land resources: soil types, chemical and physical properties of soil and land use capability classification.


In this section, the present status and development potential of the area are explained, which are outlined with the help of following details:

a)    Present Status

1. Power supply
2. Land use
3. Agricultural production and availability of inputs such as, seeds, fertilizers, money etc.
4. Government policy

a. Incentives

b. Financial institutions

5. Marketing facility

6. Infrastructure for transport

7. Growth rate of traditional agriculture

b)    Future Requirement

  1. Land preparation

  2. Irrigation and drainage requirement

  3. Reclamation of saline and alkali soils

  4. Farm equipments and supply

  5. Land reforms required

c)     Development potential

  1. Potential according to land use

  2. Aerial photograph for project planning

  3. Land use capability

  4. Economics of alternative farming methods.


a)    Preparation of Development Plan

  1. Justification

  2. Guide line and concept

  3. Objectives and scope of the plan

  4. Priorities

  5. Economic constraints

  6. Stage of development

b)    Main Programme

  1. Land Development

  2. Irrigation and drainage

  3. Soil conservation measures

c)     Step to be Recommended for Socially Acceptance of Proposal

d)    Evaluation

  1. Putting of hydrologic measurement stations

  2. Analysis of data

e)     Monitoring of Infrastructures

f)      Development Schedule


Cost Estimation: Capital cost, annual cost, foreign exchange requirement and equivalent annual cost are considered.


In this section, the benefits are computed from following sources:

  1. Improvement in water quantity and quality

  2. Increment in agricultural production

  3. Environmental control and recreation

  4. Enhancement of economy of area


Economic Analysis

  1. Criteria

  2. Project cost

  3. Tangible and intangible  benefits

  4. Agricultural and other benefits

  5. Benefits-cost analysis

  6. Equivalent annual benefit

  7. International rate of return


Financial Analysis

  1. Cost allocation

  2. Payment capacity

Section VIII

Programme Implement technique

Section IX

Conclusion and Recommendation

Keywords: Watershed Planning, Watershed Project Formulation, Surveys, Watershed Planning Work Plan

Suggested Readings

  • Suresh, R. (2002). Soil and Water Conservation Engineering. Standard Publishers Distributors, New Delhi.

  • Misra, R. P., & Achyutha, R. N. (Eds.). (1989). Micro-Level Rural Planning Principles Methods and Case Studies. Concept Publishing Company.

Last modified: Friday, 7 February 2014, 10:47 AM