Abstract: Algae blooms and unsafe nitrate levels caused primarily by nutrients in runoff from agricultural and urban areas plague waterbodies across the United States. The nutrient pollution problem can be effectively addressed through the development and implementation of appropriately scaled watershed plans. To encourage needed planning and implementation, the Environmental Protection Agency and states must utilize an improved watershed policy approach. For decades, such an approach has been stymied by a nebulous watershed concept and legal, political, and financial obstacles. This article provides an in-depth look at policies that provide the foundation and framework for watershed planning and implementation in Wisconsin, makes concrete recommendations for Total Maximum Daily Load, urban stormwater and agricultural runoff programs, and discusses model watershed plans and case studies. Through improved policies that catalyze appropriately scaled watershed planning and implementation, it may be possible to avoid costly litigation and ineffective regulatory or large-scale TMDL approaches.