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Now is the perfect time to get involved with protecting our freshwater resources with volunteer events, free training and education classes and family-friendly activities throughout the year!

we all live in a watershed!

A watershed is a land area that collects and channels rainfall and snowmelt into creeks and streams. This water then combines with other rivers and streams that progressively drains into a larger water area.

Waterways within a watershed all feed into a main body of water which could be a river, lake or stream. The beginning of a water source is called the headwaters. The area where the headwaters progressively join other water sources is called the confluence, and the endpoint of the waterways that open into the main body of water is called the mouth.

While some watersheds are relatively small, others encompass thousands of square miles and may contain streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and underlying groundwater that are hundreds of miles inland.

Water from hundreds (and often thousands) of creeks and streams flow from higher ground into rivers that eventually reach a larger waterbody. As the water flows, it often picks up pollutants, which may have negative effects on the ecology of the watershed and ultimately on the reservoir, lake or ocean where it ends up.

When rain falls on dry ground, it can soak into or infiltrate the ground. This groundwater remains in the soil where it will eventually seep into the nearest stream. Some water infiltrates much deeper, such as an underground reservoir called aquifers. In other areas where the soil contains a lot of hard clay, very little water may infiltrate, and it quickly runs off to lower ground instead.

Rain and snowmelt from watersheds travel many routes to a lake or sea. During periods of heavy rain and snowfall, water may run onto and off of impermeable surfaces such as parking lots, roads, buildings and other structures because it has nowhere else to go. These surfaces act as "fast lanes" that transport the water directly into storm drains. The excess water volume can quickly overwhelm streams and rivers, causing them to overflow and possibly result in floods.



How is a Watershed Important?

Watersheds directly affect water quality and the communities around them. A freshwater ecosystem is not an isolated body of water but linked to all the other watersheds that they are a part of, and one watershed ecosystem can greatly affect another.

Urban development often involves the removal of trees and native plants, the rearranging of topography and altering naturally-formed drainage networks. Instead of being absorbed by soil and plants, having the time to seep deeply into the ground or naturally flowing into a stream, rainwater is sent into a “fast lane” off of roads and buildings.

Fast lanes and stormwater runoff carries the threat of land erosion and habitat loss. Water flowing through a stream naturally picks up dirt along the way. However, if fast-moving water picks up enough soil over time, this can result in severe river bank erosion and possible failure.

As water runs over roofs and roads, it also picks up toxins. This runoff can contain heavy metals, oils, pesticides and fertilizers which become harmful water pollution that travels long distances in our streams, rivers and lakes.


what can be done to protect a watershed?

  • Get to know your watershed
  • Visit and enjoy your local streams, lakes and rivers
  • Install a low-maintenance rain garden
  • Reduce the use of lawn fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides
  • Collect and recycle gray water
  • Plant trees to absorb rainwater and prevent soil erosion
  • Tell your friends and family how watersheds work
  • Properly dispose of household hazardous waste
  • Attend local government and city council meetings
  • Redirect runoff from rooftops to a vegetated area or rain garden
  • Get involved with your local watershed community
Fortunately, there are many things - big and small - that we can do as individuals, families and communities to protect and restore our watershed.             

  • Volunteer to participate in cleanup and restoration projects
  • Replace concrete and asphalt driveways with pavers or pervious concrete
  • Grow native plants to capture and clean stormwater runoff
  • Avoid dumping any refuse or hazardous waste into a storm drain
  • Increase your home value by improving landscaping and planting shade trees
  • Fix leaky faucets and septic tanks to prevent wasted water and pollution
  • Recycle and properly bag rubbish, pet waste and garbage
  • Help monitor a local stream or river



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