Watershed Management

Clean water is vital for healthy communities and resilient reef ecosystems. Coral reef management depends on a ‘ridge to reef’ approach. In order to thrive, coral requires sunlight, clean water, and a balanced ecosystem. Land based sources of pollution (see examples in figure below) are a primary local threat to reefs in the CNMI because they smother coral, introduce pathogens, and disrupt or destroy natural ecological function. DCRM leads watershed management planning as a tool to reduce pollution and therefore protect the coral reef.

This work is done in close partnership with the BECQ Division of Environmental Quality, which is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the health of CNMI’s marine water. Collecting regular water quality samples ensures that the coastal zone continues to support marine life, recreation, and public health standards (see DEQ’s Water Surveillance & Non-point Source website here).

Threats to Coral Reefs: Land-Based Sources of Pollution. Source: NOAA

Priority Watersheds

A ‘watershed’ is an area of land, bounded by ridgelines, where water collects and flows downhill into a certain part of the ocean. Three watersheds are identified as the central focus of the Coral Reef Initiative’s land-based coral conservation efforts: Garapan (West Takpochao) and Laolao Bay on Saipan,  and Talakhaya on Rota. These watersheds were selected for their economic, biological and social significance because they are high use areas with vital natural resources. See the following pages (or the use the links above) to learn more about the watershed management projects in each priority area.