UPDATE: Ecology's new website will be live on Monday morning! Our official web address will be https://ecology.wa.gov

Puget Sound photo identifier

Saving Puget Sound

Puget Sound Watershed Characterization Project

What is a watershed 'characterization'?

It is a set of water and habitat assessments that compare areas within a watershed for restoration and protection value. It is a coarse-scale tool that supports decisions regarding:

  1. Where on the landscape should efforts be focused first
  2. What types of actions are most appropriate to that place.

It provides an initial filter for regional and local governments in landscape-level planning. Results can identify areas of the landscape that are:

  • Priorities for acquisition (or protection via conservation easements)
  • More appropriate for restoration (mitigation/conservation banks)
  • Less likely to be damaged from development impacts.

This helps direct limited funds to areas with greater probability of successful protection and restoration of aquatic and terrestrial resources, while providing a predictable land use framework.

Puget Sound Watershed Characterization

Check out our interactive mapping site for this project!

This project covers the entire Puget Sound drainage area — from the Olympic Mountains on the west to the Cascades on the east. It identifies the most important areas, across the entire Sound and within each of the 19 WRIA, to protect and restore, and those areas more suitable for development. The project, funded by an EPA grant, is a collaborative effort between Ecology, the Puget Sound Partnership, and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Characterization includes both:

  1. Water Assessments
    • Water flow (delivery, surface storage, recharge, and discharge)
    • Water quality (sediment, nutrients, pathogens, and metals)
  2. Habitat Assessments
    • Terrestrial
    • Freshwater
    • Marine shorelines.

The assessments prioritize small watersheds, or habitat areas, relative to one another, for their protection and restoration value.

> More information on the water and habitat assessments


Colin F. Hume, Coordinator
(425) 649-7139


Back to top



Web Map Application

View our interactive map! See the current assessment results, examples of applications, and get data and guidance documents on the Puget Sound Characterization Project.

Technical Assistance Team

Need help with a possible assessment? Contact us. We support users of the Characterization information through an inter-agency group of technical experts and scientists.