ABSTRACT: Since 1989, the government of Pierce County, Washington, has prepared four watershed action plans. The watersheds cover almost 800,000 acres and include about 600,000 residents and diverse land uses, from the city of Tacoma to Mount Rainier National Park. The primary purpose of these plans was to address water quality impacts from nonpoint sources of pollution and to protect beneficial uses of water. Pierce County has experienced problems such as shellfish bed closures and the Federal Clean Water Act Section 303(d) listing of local water bodies as a result of declining water quality. Pierce County achieved improvements by engaging diverse groups of stakeholders in generating solutions to nonpoint sources of water pollution through our watershed planning process. Using participatory methods borrowed from private industry, Pierce County was able to reach consensus, build trust, maximize participation, facilitate learning, encourage creativity, develop partnerships, shorten time frames for the planning processes, and increase the level of commitment participants had to implementing the plans. As a result, the earliest plans have a high rate of voluntary implementation. This indicates that the process and methodology used to develop watershed plans has a significant, if not critical, impact on their success.