What is a Watershed?

 In Water Pollution Control

Part of our quarterly Storm Water Series by Todd Sattison, WPC Superintendent

Keeping Indiana waterways clean demands more than creekside diligence. Even if you don’t live on Cedar Creek, you may be contributing to the pollution of creeks, lakes and streams. Cedar Creek is larger than its shoreline. It’s part of a larger system—a watershed. Water from rainfall or snowmelt that doesn’t evaporate or soak into the soil runs into ditches, streams, wetlands or lakes. And the area where the water drains from is a watershed.

Watersheds vary in size. If water from a few acres drains into a stream, those few acres are its watershed. This stream and others like it run into larger streams or rivers. Therefore, small watersheds make up larger ones. It’s easy to see how the watersheds of Indiana can have land areas many times larger than their water body surface.

Wherever you live in Indiana you are in a watershed. Your watershed may be covered with towns, suburban development, industrial plants or farmland. Any excess nutrients, sediments and pollutants in your watershed are carried by storm water runoff into lakes and streams. You and all the other people who live in the watershed potentially influence the water quality in nearby streams and lakes depending on how careful you are in day-to-day activities.

Understanding that activities on land affect water quality should lead us all to view our common activities in a different light. Things like pet waste, lawn care, automotive maintenance and farming can all be impacted by watersheds. These and many other activities contribute excess nutrients, sediment and pollutants to Cedar Creek and then to the St. Joseph River and then to the Maumee River and then on to Lake Erie.

The by-products of our activities can degrade nearby waters when we’re not careful. Excess nutrients increase algae and weed growth. Sediments carry nutrients and may also cloud the receiving water, resulting in increased turbidity that can harm fish populations and make the water less pleasant for recreation. Pollutants carried from the watershed can harm fish and plant life in lakes and rivers. In some situations, these pollutants contaminate well water and other drinking water sources.

Let’s do our part and keep Indiana’s watersheds clean. Here are some ideas for you:

  • Throw trash in a can: Litter on the sidewalk often ends up in the storm drains and flows into our waterways.
  • Clean naturally: Use non-toxic, environmentally-friendly and biodegradable cleaners and soaps.
  • Dispose of dog waste: Clean up after your furry family members.
  • Be a true “green” thumb: Grow an eco-friendly garden that benefits your plants and the planet.
  • Maintain your pool and hot tub: Swimming pools and hot tubs must be maintained properly to keep chemicals from our waterways.
  • Recycle hazardous waste properly: Toxic materials, such as motor oil and oil filters, anti-freeze, paints, solvents, cleaners, aerosols and batteries, need to be recycled properly to keep them from leaching into our waterways.

For more information, contact Todd Sattison at Water Pollution Control at 260.925.1714 or tmsattison@ci.auburn.in.us.

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