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Utilizing a watershed approach, the Planning Unit conducts activities and implements programs for the protection and restoration of Illinois' water resources. The objective of the Planning Unit's Watershed Management Program is to develop an integrated holistic process that will effectively and efficiently protect, enhance and restore the physical, chemical and biological integrity of water resources within a defined hydrologic area (watershed).

Initiatives such as the Targeted Watershed Approach, and the Unified Watershed Assessment and Watershed Restoration Priorities for Illinois are mechanisms used to direct available resources, prioritize planning efforts, and to coordinate programs and initiatives between Illinois EPA and other natural resource agencies and organizations. Watershed Planning initiatives are conducted and promoted based on the document Guidance for Developing Watershed Implementation Plans in Illinois which integrates water pollution control and drinking water issues, integrates regulatory and non-regulatory programs and addresses surface and ground water issues.

The Planning Unit implements the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program in accordance with Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act. Illinois EPA views TMDLs as a tool to be utilized for developing water quality based solutions that are incorporated into an overall watershed management approach. Impaired waters on the 303(d) List are required to have TMDLs developed for water quality attainment.