All About Watersheds
What's a watershed?
Did you know that we all live in a watershed? No matter where you live, work or play, you are in a watershed! You might be surprised to know that watersheds are more than just water. A watershed is an area of land that water flows across or through on its way to a particular water body, such as a stream, river, wetland or coast. Think of it as the land upon which precipitation (such as rain) falls and flows to a common, watery place.
Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. They can be very large, spanning several provinces, or so small that they only encompass a small stream or wetland area. They cross counties, provinces and national boundaries. They can be "open systems" -- those that eventually drain into an ocean or "closed systems" -- ones where water can only escape through evaporation or by seeping into the earth.
Canada has five main watersheds: the Arctic, the Atlantic (which includes the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River), Hudson Bay, the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. Each of these massive landscapes contains a network of sub-watersheds, most of which are connected through configurations of tributaries (streams and rivers) that channel water to an ocean.
Order a free copy of "Discover Canada's Watersheds" map.
For more information on your own watershed visit the "Know Your Watershed" web site at: http://map.ns.ec.gc.ca/kyw/
Why are watersheds important?
Watersheds not only allow an area for water to drain and seep into the ground, they provide important habitat for both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. Watersheds provide people and animals with fresh drinking water. Watersheds support industries, which can sometimes put stress on a watershed, and have a number of recreational uses.
Anything that occurs on land can directly affect streams, rivers, lakes and the groundwater. Motor oil, road salt, pesticides and fertilizers can all reach watercourses though sewers, runoff, and infiltration. Industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, erosion and devegetation from logging, untreated municipal sewage and faulty septic systems can all affect watersheds. Trees and other vegetation are important to watersheds because they slow runoff, protect land from erosion, reduce water temperatures, and can even clean water.
Pollutants within your watershed can harm the environment, wildlife and habitat. They can also impact the economy and jobs, and can degrade the health and wellness of humans.
What can I do to help protect watersheds?
- Never pour any chemicals down the drain
- Clean up garbage on the ground
- Clean up after your pets
- Properly dispose of household hazardous wastes
- Use alternative pest control methods
- Practice waste reduction and pollution prevention
- Plant native species of plants - they grow better without the aid of fertilizers and pesticides.
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