Tuesday, February 24, 2015

So you slept through science class–part 11: What is a watershed?

I often ask my students, “what is a watershed?”  They immediately focus on the “water” part of the word.  Actually, a “watershed” is about the land; it’s an area of land that drains to a specific waterbody.  My local watershed is the Accotink creek watershed.  If we zoom out, I live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  What’s the name of your watershed?

So why is it so important to be familiar with your watershed?  Because, everything that happens on the land, eventually impacts the water.  Let’s take a look at my watershed, the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  This watershed has the largest land to water ratio in the world – 16:1!  Areas from 6 states (about 64,000 square miles) drain into the Chesapeake Bay, and the activities of the 17 million people who live in the watershed directly affect the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.  Every time anyone in the watershed fertilizes his garden, washes her car, drives her car, or salts the sidewalk for ice, it affects the quality of water in the Chesapeake Bay.  The same is true for every watershed.

Learn which watershed you live in using this simple website where you can search using your zipcode.  After you know your watershed, the website can also help you find groups working on water quality issues in your area!

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