Watershed Health Assessment Framework

Click here to visit the Minnesota DNR website about the Watershead Health Assessment Framework.

Watershed Health – Reviewing the Framework


Watershed Health Assessment Framework

“Managing for Health”
fall farm
Photo Credit:  MN DNR Beth Knudsen

‘Hey, what the heck is…? ‘

 As curious kids head back to school, they ask lots of questions. A teacher or parent might be caught searching the internet before giving that easy-sounding answer.  In the same way, when you hear the question, ‘What the heck is WHAF?‘; it can be hard to describe and leave you scrambling for more information.
Let’s review the Watershed Health Assessment Framework; how the website is organized, the content that is delivered and concepts to keep in mind.

What is the Watershed Health Assessment Framework?
A recent legislative report clearly stated some basics about WHAF so let’s use that text (shown in italics) for a quick review.
‘The Watershed Health Assessment Framework (WHAF) is a powerful web-based mapping and exploration tool.. especially effective at helping citizen groups, local officials, and students understand what a watershed is.. The tool helps people visualize how a wide range of natural conditions and land use changes affect a watershed’s ability to deliver clean water and other environmental benefits.’

Navigating the WHAF on the Web www.mndnr.gov/whaf
Opening the WHAF website will show you three icons that lead to more information about Managing for Watershed Health:
About the Science of Watershed Health
  • The 5 Ecological Components,
  • Health Scores and Report Cards
  • Major Watershed Context Reports
Explore Watershed Health Assessments
  • Interactive Web Map
  • Nested Watershed Scales
  • Health Scores and Related Data
  • Imagery, Topography, other Base Maps
  • Tools for Saving, Sharing and Collaborating
  • And much more
Key Concepts for Watershed Health and Systems Management
  • The Watershed Definition
  • Watershed Stories
  • Health, Scale, Complexity, Resilience Concepts
WHAF Home Page menus
Watershed Health Assessment Framework home page and content found in each of section

Understanding the ‘Watershed’ Concept

watershed boundaries

‘The WHAF lets users select any point of interest on the map and display the surrounding catchment, major watershed, and basin, or outline upstream and downstream areas… There is perhaps no better way to explain what a watershed is than to show someone on a map where they are currently standing and display the boundary of the surrounding watershed –with aerial photography, stream lines, and other landscape features on the map for context. The WHAF helps users understand that watersheds exist at multiple, nested scales.’
Click to open the WHAF map*:
* REMINDER: Please use Firefox or Chrome as your browser.

How Healthy is My Watershed?

health score example

‘Tapping in to more than 50 layers of existing environmental data from the DNR and other state and federal agencies, the WHAF goes beyond water quality to score 35 different aspects of watershed health. The scores combine multiple layers of data organized around the five components of watershed health – biology, connectivity, geomorphology, hydrology, and water quality… Users can explore the health scores.. at the various watershed scales.
The WHAF puts local water resource issues into a larger context. Context is important for selecting solutions that match the scale of the issue and understanding how multiple, interrelated factors determine a watershed’s health.’
 Click to open the WHAF map*:
* REMINDER: Please use Firefox or Chrome as your browser.

Building Resilience
The WHAF also holds information about Key Concepts that help you dive deeper into ways to manage for watershed health.
Resilience is one of those key concepts and it is defined as ‘the ability to tolerate disturbance while maintaining the capacity to adapt’. Being healthy is one thing, staying healthy is another.  Being resilient helps you bounce back from illness and injury.
You can build up your personal health reserves with diet, exercise, diverse friendships and learning new things.  You can build up your personal economic reserves with a savings account and an investment portfolio.
You can build up ecological health reserves with connected green space, clean air, high quality water, and protected expanses of important habitat.   If you hold something in reserve, you will have a better chance of dealing with sudden unexpected challenges or long term changes.

Healthy People walking

Photo Credit: MN DNR Beth Knudsen

“What the Heck is WHAF?”
 Now you can give that easy-sounding answer with confidence!  Want to know more about managing for watershed health?  Check out our website…
Why assess watershed health?  What is a watershed?  What does “Watershed Health” mean? How is watershed health measured?  What is the 5 component framework?

Comments are closed.