Do You Know Which Watershed You Are In?
Do you? Because I didn’t! I didn’t even know what a watershed was before I started working with stormwater. So let’s begin by defining it. Essentially watersheds are any piece of land that water runs off of to a waterbody — which is pretty much everywhere. Therefore, keeping watersheds healthy is vital to having healthy water bodies.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to maintain them. You may know that pollution causes dead zones like the big one in the Gulf of Mexico. But you probably don’t see a whole lot of people dumping trash or used tires directly into water bodies anymore, so where is it coming from?
Watersheds are directly related to water pollution. Things like erosion, land development, and agriculture change the natural ecosystem and introduce pollution to water bodies.
The Mississippi River is a good example of a river that ends up picking up tons of pollution from smaller rivers and streams, some of which may be in your area. Did you know that nutrients introduced into rivers anywhere from Montana to Ohio to Louisiana end up contributing to pollution in the Gulf of Mexico? The Mississippi River watershed spans 33 states and eventually drains into the Gulf of Mexico where the pollution it carries leads to the death of millions of organisms in the ocean. It’s obvious that the areas that can pollute the river are the ones directly touching the river itself. But the hundreds of water bodies that feed it contribute to that same river’s pollutants as well. So believe it or not, if you live near any water, you may be contributing to pollution in water bodies up to hundreds of miles away if you’re not careful.
So what can you do?
If you take a look at one of our previous articles, we talk about how you can keep pollutants out of your storm drain and a lot of those same things apply to healthy watersheds:
- Properly dispose of lawn clippings and leaves or other yard waste or compost and reuse them
- Wash your car on your lawn or at a car wash instead of on your driveway.
- Take care of pet waste immediately.
If everyone starts taking care of the watershed they live on, we can start making changes. It all begins with you. So let’s start by finding out which watershed we occupy and how we can keep it as healthy as possible. If you would like more information check out the EPA’s page on watersheds.
By: Melissa Burns