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Home > Regional Planning > Environment

Guiding Growth – Healthy Watersheds

Project Background

Thurston County is working with TRPC to bring watershed science into local policies that protect water quality in Puget Sound.  This collaborative effort is being funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The project will require working with local cities and involving people who live, work, and recreate there.

This project begins by better understanding the existing characteristics of our watersheds.  Since each watershed is unique, there is no one size fits all approach to management and protection.  Scientific studies are already under way to characterize each watershed draining into Puget Sound to determine if they are healthy or degraded.

The most effective strategies to guide growth will be linked to a watershed’s health. New management options may include changes to existing development regulations, transfer or purchase of development rights, low impact development, wetland mitigation, purchasing sensitive lands, or funding required capital projects.

Basins at risk of degradation will be identified. Computer simulations will assess the effects of various future strategies. They will take into account factors such as projected future population, employment, and transportation. The results will help identify the best management strategies for selected basins.

Finally, local jurisdictions will be able to pick which management strategies would best fit their community. Although this project will recommend a preferred management approach for each watershed, jurisdictions will need to approve these through their own public process.

Additional Information

For more information about the project, visit Thurston County's website or contact Thurston County Associate Allison Osterberg  (360) 754-3355, x7011 or


Basin Evaluation and Management Strategies for Thurston County [pdf 7 MB]

    • Map 1: Thurston County Watersheds
    • Map 2: Thurston County Basins
    • Map 3: Thurston County Analysis Units
    • Map 4: Benthic Index Of Biotic Integrity (B-IBI ) Sample Site Locations
    • Map 5: General Water Quality For Thurston County’s Streams – 2007-2009 Water Years
    • Map 6: 1991 Total Impervious Area By Basin
    • Map 7: 2010 Total Impervious Area by Basin
    • Map 8: 2035 Total Impervious Area by Basin
    • Map 9: Total Impervious Area Estimate At Build Out By Basin
    • Map 10: Estimated Increase in Total Impervious Area – 2010 to Buildout
    • Map 11: 1991 Forest Canopy by Basin
    • Map 12: 2006 Forest Canopy by Basin
    • Map 13: Forest Lands Vulnerable to Conversion
    • Map 14: Thurston County Wetlands
    • Map 15: Stream Riparian buffers                                                   
    • Map 16: Landscape Groups: Puget Sound Watershed Characterization
    • Map 17: Basin Current Conditions
    • Map 18: Importance of Waterflow – Surface Water: Puget Sound Watershed Characterization
    • Map 19: Importance of Waterflow – Groundwater Recharge: Puget Sound Watershed Characterization
    • Map 20: Importance of Waterflow – Groundwater Discharge: Puget Sound Watershed Characterization              

Estimates of Current and Future Impervious Area For Watershed Based Land Use Planning Thurston County, November 2013 [pdf 3 MB]

This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement (PO -00J12401-0) to Thurston County. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. 

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