Watershed 101

Diagram of a watershed

Diagram of a watershed

We all live in a watershed, and what we do on the land impacts the water. But what is a watershed, exactly? A watershed is the area of land where water (rain or snow melt) flows to a common stream; a drainage basin defined by topography. It’s our neighborhood creek and the land around it. Watershed planning is looking at a waterway and the land around it and figuring out how to best protect and restore it.

Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. If you live next to Clear Creek, then you likely live in the Clear Creek Watershed. Activities at your home will effect the creek and its water quality. Clear Creek flows into Brashears Creek, so you live in the Brashears Creek Watershed, too. And then Brashears flows into the Salt River, so you also live in the Salt River Basin. In this way, most of us live in more than one watershed. It’s a matter of scale. The big watersheds in the state, like the Salt,  are called basins.

What happens to the land and water in your watershed determines the quality of your drinking water, the strength of your ecosystem, and the health of everything that depends on water in your neighborhood – including you!

The most important thing to remember is that you have the power to improve and protect your watershed. Everything from taking care of the stream that runs through your property to educating others in your neighborhood to hosting a festival or cleanup for your watershed community can be a doorway to very real change.