Local Watershed

Rain dispersing into watershed leading into Lake Ontario.


A watershed is an area of land that drains into a body of water, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, sea, or ocean. The watershed includes both the streams and rivers that convey the water, as well as the land surfaces from which water runs off. Watersheds are separated from adjacent watersheds by high points, such as hills or slopes. We all reside, work, and play in a watershed, and keeping it protected is everybody's job. We can all be H2O Heroes!. (NYSDEC)

Your Watershed

There are three major watersheds in Monroe County. Our regional watersheds cover an area of over 3,000 square miles, and drain through the county into Lake Ontario. Watersheds can extend beyond municipal boundaries, and can vary greatly in size. Residents of Monroe County can find out which local watershed they live in by viewing the below map.

A map of the 3 major watersheds in Monroe County leading to Lake Ontario.

Watershed Care

Activities of all land uses within watersheds impact the water quality of down-gradient water bodies. Point and nonpoint sources of pollution in a watershed contribute nutrients, bacteria, and chemical contaminants to U.S. waterways. Watershed management encompasses all the activities aimed at identifying sources and minimizing contaminants to a water body from its watershed. Watershed management recognizes that the water quality of our streams, lakes, and estuaries results from the interaction of upstream features. Effective planning and long-term change in impaired watersheds requires citizen participation in many stages of the process.


Rochester Embayment

Rochester Embayment Areas of Concern

Why is the Rochester Embayment Important?

The Great Lakes form the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth and contain 21% of the world's surface fresh water. The Rochester Embayment of Lake Ontario is a broad bay at the mouth of the Genesee River.

The Embayment is one of 43 Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes. These are areas where the environment has been significantly harmed by human activity. Since the late 1980s, efforts in both the US and Canada have made great progress toward improving the environment of these areas.

This section describes some of the environmental challenges in these areas, and efforts taken to restore and protect the water quality and ecosystems of the Rochester Embayment.
The Rochester Embayment is shown in orange on the map below, including the Genesee River from Lake Ontario up to the Lower Falls.

A Local Improvement Plan

Stream with Algae

Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan

A plan, called the Remedial Action Plan, has been prepared to identify and address environmental challenges in the Rochester Embayment.

Efforts to improve water quality and the environment in the Rochester Embayment are led by Monroe County.

Remedial Action Plans are developed in three stages:

  • Stage I identifies specific environmental problems, called Beneficial Use Impairments, and sources of pollution. This was completed in 1993.

  • Stage II proposes restoration actions to address the environmental problems and provides a plan for implementing those actions. This was completed in 1997 and updated in 2012.

  • Stage III will document that the environmental problems have been addressed and that the AOC is ready for delisting. This is currently underway.

Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan
Aerial View of Rochester’s Embayment

A Lakewide Improvement Plan

Lake-Wide Improvement Plan

Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMP)

The Lakewide Plan:

  • Focuses on the open lake beyond the local issues.

  • Is an international partnership to restore and protect Lake Ontario by reducing pollutants entering the lake and addressing their sources.

  • Will also work with the local plans around Lake Ontario and continue after the local plans are completed.

Go To Lake Ontario Forum LAMP Website.

What are Our Environmental Concerns?

Fish and Wildlife

The Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan addresses environmental concerns (called Beneficial Use Impairments or BUIs) common to many of the areas around the Great Lakes.

Lake Sturgeon

A number of these BUIs relate to supporting healthy fish and wildlife populations within the Rochester Embayment, such as:

  • Reduced fish and wildlife populations

  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat

  • Degraded food sources for fish and wildlife

Government and industry have made major investments in infrastructure and programs designed to restore water resources. Click here to find out more information about these efforts.

Red Tailed Hawk

Fishing, Swimming, and Other Uses

The Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan addresses environmental concerns (called Beneficial Use Impairments or BUIs) common to many of the areas around the Great Lakes.

A number of these BUIs relate to how we can use our water resources, such as:

  • Eating the fish

  • Enjoying the beach

  • Impacts of excessive algae

For a complete description of BUIs related to the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern, view the Stage I and Stage II RAP documents.

RAP Sign

You Can Be an H2O Hero!

What Can You Do To Improve and Protect Local Water Quality?

H2O Hero Larry
  • View the At Home and Volunteering

  • Participate in Rochester Embayment Area of Concern Public Meetings

    • Noticed on Larry the H2O Hero Facebook Page

    • Email mchealth@monroecounty.gov with the subject line “Embayment” to be added to the contact list and get direct notifications about upcoming public meetings.

  • View the Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan documents below.

  • Connect With Larry and Other H2O Heroes!

Rochester Embayment Area of Concern Remedial Action Reports

The following documents have been prepared in support of the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern Remedial Action Plan.

Stage I

Stage II


BUI Removal Reports

Removal Report Status

Draft in progress


Draft in progress


Draft in progress



Draft here for review


Draft here for review

Draft in progress



Draft in progress

Beneficial Use Impairment

1. Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption

2. Tainting of Fish and Wildlife Flavor

3. Degraded Fish and Wildlife Populations

4. Fish Tumors or Other Deformities

5. Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems

6. Degradation of Benthos

7. Restrictions on Dredging Activities

8. Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae

9. Restrictions on Drinking Water Consumption

10. Beach Closings

11. Degradation of Aesthetics

12. Added Costs to Agriculture or Industry

13. Degradation of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton

14. Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat