What is the Watershed Health Assessment Framework?

The Watershed Health Assessment Framework delivers Minnesota's scientific data in a statewide, interactive map for natural resource professionals and the public.  Watershed health scores and related data are brought together to help evaluate watershed health and resource management decisions with a systems science approach.  The WHAF uses five ecological components to  provide a consistent and comprehensive framework for viewing the natural system. 

How does the WHAF enhance our understanding of watersheds?  

  • Bring together the best available data and emerging science. 
    • We synthesize data from different sources to calculate watershed health index scores that represent important key ecological conditions and processes.  To create consistent results, all WHAF health scores are calculated statewide and scaled 0 (degraded health/ high risk) to 100 (intact health / low risk), represented with a 'red to green' color ramp.
  • Provide a consistent and repeatable approach to view, analyze and discuss data and data trends.
    • We organize health scores by 5 ecosystem components to provide a framework that allows comparison of health scores at various landscape scales. The 5-Components are: Hydrology, Geomorphology, Biology, Connectivity and Water Quality. The goal is to deliver the breadth of ecosystem complexity in an organized structure that is accessible to everyone. 
  • Improve our collective understanding of the variety of conditions affecting watershed health
    • We embed key concepts from system science into the way the health scores, data and supporting information are delivered.  Seamless, statewide health scores and data are delivered together with 'masks' at various spatial scales to help users visualize important health patterns at different scales.  Supporting documents share examples of examining and managing systems.
  • Provide a place to review natural resource management approaches for their broad impact to watershed health
    • By providing a full system view of ecological health across scales and components, the WHAF allows managers and citizens an opportunity to consider the trade-offs that occur when any land or water management action is taken.  By making the  map viewer available to all users, observations, ideas and concerns can be easily shared and discussed with all interested people.