Watershed Health and What YOU Can Do About It
written and researched by Maya Kohn with support from Cameron Hall, interns from the Lab School of Washington
In recent years, many of us have been hearing more and more about the threats of climate change. One word people commonly hear is “watershed”. Well, what is a watershed? A watershed, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is the “land area that drains to a common waterway.” A healthy watershed is key to a healthy ecosystem which is all of the plants, animals (including humans), and the environment, and how they interact.
Find out which watershed you live in and how healthy it is by clicking here.
Sadly, our watersheds are struggling! Watershed health is determined by a few key factors: landscape condition, habitat, hydrology, geomorphology, water quality, and biological condition. All of these factors are harmed by the toxic chemicals that are being released into the land, water, and air. Luckily, we can work together to fix that.
Many people are working to help improve the health of our watersheds, but most watersheds are still in pretty bad condition. Our watersheds will get better if ordinary people help too. The EPA offers a lot of tips, which include:
Throw away toxic chemicals properly; don’t throw them in the trash or down the sink
Pick up trash and don’t litter
Use reusable bags
Use non-toxic products
Report any stormwater drain issues to your local town government
The federal government has taken action in protecting American watersheds. One contribution the government has implemented in keeping a healthy watershed is in protecting flow rates and volume of water in the environment or what are called hydrologic regimens. This enforces policies to protect rivers and other bodies of water from negative human impact and allow biodiversity for aquatic habitats. Another way the government has helped in protecting watershed health is by working with habitat and biodiversity conservation groups such as non-profits. The government gives grants to these groups to support their work.
The federal government and other types of government work to build good infrastructure. One example of that is drain inlets. Water from roads and parking lots run into the drain inlets leading to an underground storm drain system. This system works with other infrastructure to prevent flooding. You can even help by keeping an eye on the drain inlets in your neighborhood. Right before any rain or snow, remove the debris from the drain like leaves, trash, or soil.
Now that you’ve learned about what you can do and what the government does, here are a few things that the Accokeek Foundation does at Piscataway Park. The Accokeek Foundation is aware of the threats to watershed health, and they use many practices on the farm at Piscataway Park to maintain the Piscataway watershed. One example is the rain garden behind the Education Center.
Not only does the farm have a rain garden, it also uses special farming practices to prevent erosion. This includes rotational grazing (moving where the animals graze around the farm), rotational farming (growing different plants every year), and growing cover crops in the fall and winter. This helps prevent runoff because plants hold the soil in place, and the healthier the soil, the better the plants can hold the soil.
The foundation also presents watershed health programs for young visitors - a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience, 'Tiny Seed, Global Impact,' for first grade students and public programs for children like Kids Quest.
Join us for Kids Quest on June 11th, 2022 10am-12pm! Click here to register.
Calling all adventurers! Journey through a day of exploration and investigation by getting your hands dirty (literally!) and discovering the role you play in the health of water.
Go on a river shoreline scavenger hunt
Use a microscope
Piscataway Indian citizens will share their historical tools and fishing techniques, their traditional foods from their homeland's waterways, and the ecological relationships among aquatic lifeforms.