If you've been working on greening your lifestyle by recycling and composting and reducing energy usage, you care about the earth and the environment. You're doing your part. But what about your backyard and your eco-neighborhood? What about your watershed?
What's a watershed, you ask? We all live in one, and what you do there affects us all!
So What's a Watershed?
You can think of a watershed as your personal ecological neighborhood. A watershed is
So back to your neighborhood: the rain that falls on your roof goes down the gutter, into a storm drain, and into a local pond, river, or coastal floodplain. Rain on your property may also flow into a creek in your backyard and then into a larger river and then into a lake. All watersheds are different, just like each neighborhood has its own unique qualities. What happens to the water in your lawn affects the water downstream. Asking, "Why are watersheds important?" teaches us that nature works on a bigger scale, and so should we.
Know Your Own Watershed
What and where is the closest river or creek to your home? Do you know? If it's over the next hill, it may not be in the same watershed. Check out the Surf Your Watershed Tool put together by the EPA to find out. You can also head over to the U.S. Geological Survey's Science in Your Watershed site to geek out at the water monitoring and fish studies that may be happening in your eco-neighborhood.
One of the biggest threats to a river anywhere is
Once you know your watershed's name and shape along with local pollution concerns, do another web search for any watershed groups active nearby. If your local river has an organization affiliated with it, reach out and see how you can get involved. The watershed association will be able to tell you how your own watershed is threatened and how you can take action. For example, I used to work for a watershed group that worked to bring fish back to a nearly lifeless stream that had been polluted by abandoned coal mines.
Not all threats are from liquid pollution. Almost every river or beach could benefit from a few hours spent picking up trash. Some watersheds, like salt marshes in highly developed beach towns, are also threatened by habitat destruction from building new houses. Find out how you can help groups like The Nature Conservancy preserve wild lands in your state or local area.
There may be ways to volunteer for a day at a time as well, like an annual river cleanup day or a few hours spent replanting native grasses on a riverbank. One of the best things you can do with your new knowledge of your watershed and its river group is to tell your neighbors and get them involved!
Other Ways to Help
Remember how I mentioned the stormwater before? A big thing you can do to help is to disconnect the water that falls onto your roof and driveway from storm drains. Instead, direct it into your grass, where it will filter into the ground and recharge the aquifers where most of our nation's drinking water comes from. If it goes into the storm drain, it may actually cause pollution to your local waterway in the form of dirty, warm water full of road salt and oil spills that can harm aquatic life. Anything you put in your lawn or garden ultimately ends up in the ocean.
Have you noticed that many face washes,
Remember: we all live downstream of someone else. That tiny splash of used oil that is tossed into your local creek could one day end up in the ocean. Why not stop it in its greasy tracks before it leaves your backyard?
There are so many other ways to help your watershed and its local stream. How else do you help protect your own watershed? Let us know on Twitter!
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It’s Good
Ecological protection must happen on a watershed scale, not just city-wide or state-wide. Nature works within watersheds and we should pay attention!