Water program

Downstream Strategies catalogs current conditions, links policy and management options with scientific data, and writes detailed plans. We also perform economic and policy analyses, provide expert testimony and litigation support, and conduct field monitoring. We arm our clients with the technical expertise needed to improve and protect water resources.

Project spotlight

Conservation Easements as a Strategy for Drinking Water Protection, Lewisburg, West Virginia (2015)

Downstream Strategies worked with the West Virginia Land Trust to identify parcels of land that would be suitable for conservation easements that would contribute to protection of Lewisburg, WV’s drinking water source. This report outlines the process undertaken to prioritize parcels of land that have important natural qualities and those that have potential to contribute contaminants to the drinking water source, the Greenbrier River.

Our services and skills


  • Source Water Protection Plans
  • Watershed plans
  • Natural resource plans
  • Wild and Scenic River studies
  • Community-based assessments
  • River management plans
  • River recreation use and impact studies
  • River recreation management and visitor education

Sandy Creek of the Tygart Valley River Watershed-based Plan (2012)

The Sandy Creek watershed in Barbour, Preston, and Taylor counties of West Virginia has been impacted by acid mine drainage pollutants. This watershed-based plan addresses nonpoint source contaminants from acid mine drainage and details stream remediation procedures that can be used to reclaim the waterway.

Economic and policy analyses

  • Policy analyses
  • Local economic benefits analyses
  • Economic impact analyses
  • Total maximum daily load (TMDL) development and implementation
  • Municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) programs
  • Green infrastructure
  • Vulnerability analyses
  • Water indices related to quality, quantity, value, and access
  • Relationships between water and energy resources
  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and 404 permitting
  • Database and geodatabase development
  • County, state, and regional projects
  • Agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay
  • Acid mine drainage treatment design

Plants Not Pipes: Promoting Green Infrastructure and its Side Benefits in Region VI (2010)

Green infrastructure refers to stormwater management techniques that infiltrate, evapotranspire, and capture and reuse runoff. These techniques include green roofs, rain barrels, permeable pavement, and many others. In addition to reducing the volume and pollution levels of stormwater runoff, green infrastructure provides many side benefits ranging from reduced maintenance and water utility costs to improved aesthetics and air quality. This report is part of a broader project to introduce green infrastructure to communities within West Virginia’s Region VI Planning and Development Council’s region and to provide tools to encourage more widespread use of the techniques.

Stream and wetland restoration

  • Assess stream and wetland conditions and restoration options
  • Perform wetland delineation
  • Draft designs and budgets
  • Create watershed restoration and mitigation plans
  • Develop final restoration designs and construction specifications
  • Provide regulatory agency coordination and permit applications
  • Manage construction contracting and planting
  • Provide construction stakeout and as-built drawings
  • Conduct monitoring and reporting
  • Design/build for small stream and wetland restoration projects

Restoring an Entire Watershed

The 620-acre watershed of Lower Dempsey Branch in Logan County, West Virginia was the site of a large, strip coal mine operation. The coal operation left benches and high walls that cut off tributaries, increased sediment pollution, and reduced water quality and habitat. Downstream Strategies staff designed over five miles of stream habitat that reconnected 16 headwater tributaries to the main stem of the stream. This innovative design created fans across the mine benches, allowing for a more natural hydrologic flow. The watershed-wide project protected 1,129 acres of riparian area and decommissioned 25 miles of poorly constructed, unused roads that had been contributing to sediment pollution.

Field monitoring

  • Streams and water wells
  • Chemical, physical, and biological monitoring, including fish and benthic macroinvertebrates
  • Surface and underground coal mines
  • Natural gas drilling, including Marcellus Shale

Marcellus Shale Water Monitoring

DS employee monitoring well water

As more Marcellus Shale gas wells are fractured across West Virginia and Pennsylvania, nearby property owners may have concern about the quality of drinking water or nearby streams. Water monitoring can document baseline water quality and detect potential changes. Downstream Strategies offers technical staff to conduct a variety of water monitoring and related services for property owners near gas wells. All water samples are analyzed by a certified laboratory to ensure results are accurate and defensible.

Expert testimony and litigation support

  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, including antidegradation requirements
  • Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) mining permits
  • Quarry permits
  • Public Service Commission certificates of convenience and necessity

Geographic Information Systems

  • Watershed delineation and management systems
  • Watershed, hydrologic, and hydraulic modeling
  • Aquatic habitat modeling and statistical assessments
  • Water quality and quantity analyses
  • NEPA project support and analyses
  • Water pollution modeling and load calculations
  • Groundwater modeling and investigations
  • Flood management and delineation
  • Customized GIS tool development
  • Surface and groundwater protection and  vulnerability analyses
  • Permitting
  • Water and wastewater infrastructure management
  • GPS surveys
  • Custom cartography

Capacity Building for Ecosystem Services Valuation and Coastal Spatial Planning in Barbados

Downstream Strategies and partners the Natural Capital Project, the World Wildlife Fund, and The Nature Conservancy are supporting climate-resilient coastal management in Barbados through a consultancy with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). In collaboration with the IDB and the Barbados Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), the project aims to integrate nature’s values into coastal management in Barbados, strengthen the capacity of CZMU to map and value ecosystem services, and identify climate-resilient pathways for coastal investment. Barbados, a sovereign island country in the Caribbean, is home to a rich diversity of ocean life and coastal habitats.

Stakeholder involvement and perspectives

  • Qualitative research such as interviews, focus groups, content analyses, and case studies
  • Quantitative social science research such as survey design, execution, and analyses
  • Community visioning as a foundation for energy planning
  • Facilitation and conference planning
  • Development of strategic partnerships
  • Curricula and outreach material development
  • Education and outreach in the classroom and field
  • Training and technical assistance

The Benefits of Acid Mine Drainage Remediation on the North Branch Potomac River

After decades of impairment, a successful program initiated by innovative staff at Maryland state agencies has transformed the North Branch Potomac River into a popular recreational river and a driver of local economic development. This remarkable improvement in water quality is the direct result of the installation of eight dosers since 1992, which add alkaline material to the river and its tributaries to treat acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines. This study calculates the local economic benefits generated in these Maryland counties stemming from acid mine drainage remediation on the North Branch, so that policy makers can make informed decisions about future funding to ensure that this remediation continues. These benefits are calculated from a survey of North Branch anglers and boaters and include three types: local spending, the economic impacts of that spending, and the willingness-to-pay even more for recreational experiences.