Protecting, preserving and remediating water quality is a diverse challenge and requires a diverse approach. SWIO and its partner organizations are working on numerous projects to help achieve these goals. You can learn more about these efforts here.


Nine Element Plan

Nine Elements. (NYSDEC)

A Nine Element Plan (9E) is a quantitative watershed based management plan similar to the EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load plan but non-regulatory and geared more specifically towards addressing non-point source pollution.

In 2018, members from the Finger Lakes Institute, Keuka Lake Association, Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, Keuka Watershed Improvement Cooperative and SWIO embarked on completing a 9E for the Seneca-Keuka watershed and were awarded a grant from the NYS Department of State in 2019. This multi-year project will identify the type, scale, cost and location of the water quality improvement projects needed to protect the lakes from excessive levels of nutrient pollution through a rigorous scientific process. Multiple public engagement events will be a held as part of the 9E development process as major components are completed, and we encourage any and all interested individuals to attend. Stay tuned for future dates.


Best Management Practices

Numerous Best Management Practice (BMP) strategies have been developed over the years to remediate and prevent water quality pollution across a wide range of landscapes. Rain gardens, rain barrels, retention basins, check dams, floodplain restoration, manure storage, and cover cropping are only a few of the examples of the BMP strategies being implemented throughout the watershed. But more work is needed!

The five Soil & Water Conservation Districts within the watershed – Chemung, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca and Yates – are experts at this and have a long history of working with area farmers, residents and road crews to get projects on the landscape. SWIO is partnering alongside them and others less experienced to help make this happen when and wherever we can.



Monitoring of our waterways is an often overlooked but critical part of water resource management. Though it does not in and of itself improve water quality, monitoring data informs all other actions that do so. Without it, BMPs are improperly designed, strategies are ill informed, and progress is uncertain.

SWIO – along with NYSDEC, USGS and Hobart and William Smith Colleges – are working to help better understand current conditions. The water quality data collected will form the foundation on which the Nine Element Plan model is built, and by extension the actions to be implemented over the next decade or more. Long term monitoring will help us track our progress, identify new pollution sources if they emerge, and adjust our management strategy as needed.   


Watershed-wide Septic Standards

Existing septic system laws – where they exist at all – differ from one municipality to the other within the Seneca Lake watershed. As such, SWIO is currently drafting an On-Site Septic System Law for potential adoption by each of the municipalities with the goal of establish a universally agreed upon set of minimal standards. These standards will provide a watershed-scale level of protection to our public waters and watershed citizens. To help gauge what level and type of requirements are acceptable to our fellow citizens, we are asking individuals to please consider completing a brief SURVEY. Thank you for contributing to this effort.


Water-Wise Certification

Effective management of public water resources requires buy-in from all public stakeholders, but those who derive income from their land – foresters, farmers and similar – face a particularly difficult choice. The adoption of more expensive practices and/or conversion of revenue generating lands into what is essentially conservation lands places these folks at an economic disadvantage – at least in the short term – to those producers who opt not to pursue these conservation practices. To address this disadvantage we are exploring the practicality of establishing a certification program that protects our public waterways by giving producers an economic incentive to adopt practices, and consumers a means of supporting those producers who do. Please consider supporting these efforts by taking a few minutes to answer our online SURVEY or by completing our downloadable FORM which you can return the Seneca Watershed Steward via email or post.


Streamside Tree Planting Initiative

Trees located along streambanks provide numerous resource benefits from nutrient removal to erosion prevention. Multiple State, Federal, and Private grant opportunities exist to help property owners and land managers obtain trees at no cost but often have requirements that are too arduous for individuals to meet on their own. To help solve this, SWIO is developing a list of property owners and managers in the Seneca Lake watershed who are interested in planting trees along streams so that we can join forces and take advantage of these opportunities. If you are such an individual please fill out the FORM and submit it to the Seneca Watershed Steward via email ( or post office (Ian Smith, Finger Lakes Institute, 601 South Main Street, Geneva NY 14456).