For the more information about water resources in the National Park Service, please visit

Canoe on Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana


The National Park Service conducts planning to ensure that the decisions it makes are as effective and efficient as possible in carrying out the NPS mission. That's true for the Water Resources Division as well. The WRD Planning program provides parks with comprehensive planning services and products to ensure that decisions are made that maintain water resource integrity. Today the WRD Planning program is part of our Planning and Information Branch located in Lakewood, Colorado.

Water plays a central role in the social, economic, environmental, and political mosaic of the units of the national park system. Many fundamental resources in parks—from natural formations and ecosystems, to plant and animal species, to human dimensions historic and modern—are closely tied to water resources.

Planning is the decision-making process that translates laws and policies into tangible guidance for parks to use in managing these fundamental and important water resources. Park planning follows a prescribed standard framework. These standards provide a logical flow that becomes increasingly detailed and complementary by agreeing first on why a park was established and what resource conditions should exist and then focusing on how those conditions should be maintained or achieved.

Importance of Water Resources Planning in the NPS

Proper management of water resources within the NPS is becoming more complex and challenging as threats to this precious resource, both internal and external to park boundaries, increase. The WRD planning processes and resulting products assist in the development of servicewide management strategies to protect and enhance water resources.

The preservation, conservation, and protection of water resources in the NPS is strongly supported in federal legislation such as the National Park Service Organic Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and several executive orders. Additional protection for water resources is found within state-specific water resource statutes, and is often found in a park's enabling legislation. It is the policy of the NPS to maintain, rehabilitate, and perpetuate the inherent natural integrity of water resources and water-dependent environments occurring within national park system units.

Planning and Information Branch Brief

Last Updated: October 06, 2014