Ever wonder what a Watershed sign by the road means?
I remember the first time I saw a watershed sign. I found myself looking for the location of the watershed in the form of a park or tourist attraction that I could visit. Years later I learned that a watershed is not a museum or aquarium, but in fact is the whole area of land that surrounds me.
A watershed is the area of land where all the surface water – from rain and snow melt – runs off it and accumulates in the same place. When precipitation occurs, water travels over forest, agriculture, or urban land before entering a lake, river, wetland or other waterway. Water can also travel into underground aquifers on its way to larger bodies of water.
Watersheds can be any size or shape. They cross county, state and national boundaries. There are 2,110 watersheds in the United States. All of us live near one of the many watersheds in the USA. What sort of land is your watershed made of? First you need to know if the land where you live is steep or flat. Steep land makes water run off into fast moving creeks and rushing rivers. Flat land allows water to collect into lakes, ponds, and swamps.
Watersheds can become polluted during rain events when water mixes with pollutants such as fertilizers, pet waste, motor oil, soapy water from car washing, and septic tank overflow. These pollutants then get washed into nearby tributaries. Storm runoff is one of the fastest growing sources of water pollution.
Resources: EPA, State Water Management, Department of Ecology