Measures of Success and Change

In the watershed world you measure our success in various ways. While the ultimate goal is improved water quality and waters that meet their designated uses, you probably won’t see improvement in water quality overnight, or even during a grant term. To evaluate short-term successes, you measure indicators and look at whether or not you are meeting your milestones.

A milestone is a checkpoint along the way to reaching your goal – it is a target value you expect to reach at a particular point in time; a “mini-goal” if you will. As you work toward a goal, you will likely have several milestones you need to meet in order to stay on track. Milestones include a target date and the action to complete. Milestones are always written in the context of its associated goals and objectives. For example:

Goal: Reduce total phosphorus to 0.076 mg/L by 2025
  • Objective: Decrease phosphorus run-off from agricultural fields.
    • Strategy: Educate producers on ways to decrease phosphorus loadings.
      • Milestone: Hold 5 field days by May 2012.
      • Milestone: Partner with Extension on annual trainings in combination with nutrient applicators license renewal by 2015.
    • Strategy: Provide cost-share for no-till technologies on 1000 acres.
      • Milestone: 100 acres enrolled in 2012.
      • Milestone: 300 acres enrolled by 2014.
      • Milestone: 500 acres enrolled by 2015.
      • Milestone: 750 acres enrolled by 2020.
  • Objective: Decrease phosphorus run-off from urban areas.
    • Strategy: Provide cost-share for rain gardens in residential areas.
      • Milestone: Install 30 rain gardens by November 2015.
    • Strategy: Provide no-phosphorus fertilizer alternatives to residents.
      • Milestone: Every small, local home-gardening center offer no-P fertilizer by 2015.
      • Milestone: big-box stores offer no-P fertilizer by 2020.

Indicators (required by IDEM’s checklist) are something that you measure to determine whether progress is being made toward a goal. Indicators can be measured continuously - they do not include a target date. Examples of indicators might include:

  • number of people trained; or,
  • downward trend in phosphorus concentrations.

Indicators are not the final goal. They serve the same purpose as milestones by helping you measure whether or not you are making progress. In addition, indicators are only required per goal – you do not need to include indicators for objectives.

For those who like a workbook approach to conducting an evaluation, you might find Water Quality Project Evaluation: A Handbook for Objectives-Based Evaluation of Water Quality Projects [PDF] from The Ohio State University to be helpful. Other handy tools for tracking progress include:

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