Do you know we all live in a watershed?
What is a watershed?
It’s an area (defined by elevation) of land, water, animals, people that are all connected. With watersheds we tend to talk about the water, as it is the carrier and connector to everything in a watershed (more on this below). It’s also called a basin (and ‘holds’ water similarly to a bathtub or basin).
In a watershed the rivers, streams, rain, etc. all flow to a given site (a lake, ocean) and contain many tiny streams (tributaries), larger rivers, wetlands, lakes, pollution and more. The flow pattern of these streams/rivers looks similar to a network of veins in your body or the roots of a tree or leaf (image 1).
Image 1 (left), a network of water: Smaller rivers (in red, green and blue above, labelled with a ‘1’ or ‘2’ or ‘3’ for their size) are called headwater streams as these ‘begin’ the life and flow of water within the watershed. In many places around the world these smaller streams are not protected by law, but make up the majority of types of streams we have and are the life-blood of the watershed. Their purity is usually higher and energy is very powerful.
Image 2 (right), the largest watershed in the U.S.: When streams and rivers flow into each other and meet (called a ‘confluence’), they form larger rivers, which eventually flow to the ocean (as in the case of this image). Watersheds have names, and the one outlined in this image is of the largest watersheds in the U.S., the Mississippi River watershed, which drains water from 14 states!
So how do I find the name of the watershed I live in?
Sometimes called your ‘watershed address,’ its important to know what watershed you live in, so you can protect and understand your influence. Most people get their water from a river or stream, and sometimes groundwater (which is part of the watershed too!). And sometimes these rivers and streams need your help to improve their health or be appreciated for their huge amount of service to our lives, so here’s how to find out the name of your watershed!
If you live in the lower 48 of the U.S., visit the WikiWatershed site and type in an address:
A. Click on the ‘model my watershed’ application and ‘launch the app’
B. Sign in as a guest, and then in the search box, type in an address
C. On the ‘select by boundary’ menu, select HUC 8 (which is a certain size category of watershed). Hover over the map, and the name of your watershed should appear!
If you are not in the lower 48, but in the U.S., you can go to the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘surf your watershed‘ site:
In future postings, we’ll go deeper into the insight I’ve gained from watersheds, and ways you can improve the quality of the water and life in watersheds.
But first, do some homework and share below when you find out the watershed you live in, i’m excited to know!!