Watersheds: What You Need to Know

by McKenzi Heger | April 29, 2019

Watersheds are found everywhere – the land beneath your feet, your backyard, mountains and valleys and even the strip of grass on the side of the highway. But wait, there’s no water nearby. How can it be a part of a watershed? Defined by the EPA as “the land area that drains to one stream, bay, lake or river”, a watershed is formed by any water that is either absorbed into land or runoff. Once this water combines with other local watersheds, rivers and streams are formed and, in turn, lead to larger bodies of water like oceans, seas, and lakes.

With that said, we’re sure you understand that when a watershed is in an unhealthy state, it also affects the quality of larger bodies of water. For this reason, it’s imperative for all watersheds to remain healthy in order to ensure our oceans, seas, bays and lakes are healthy. Not only for our own human use but also for wildlife who require fresh (and safe) water for both hydration and habitat purposes. Between outdoor recreational activities and freshwater consumption, the health of your local watershed directly affects you.

You might be thinking “okay, so what makes a watershed healthy, and how do we keep it that way?” For one, the water quality must be physically and chemically stable enough to support healthy ecosystems for both native aquatic and riparian species. Having a strong hydrologic and geomorphologic form and a healthy vegetative landscape overhead also helps maintain water levels and flow.

Mullica River Mitigation Bank

Now onto the second half of the question – how do we keep watersheds healthy? While there are a wide range of watershed protection activities in movement already, the EPA took it up a notch. In addition to the Clean Water Act (CWA) adopted over 4 decades ago, they created the Healthy Watersheds Program (HWP) to further enhance their “ability to protect healthy aquatic ecosystems and their watersheds.” The most crucial part of this program is being able to successfully assess healthy watersheds and protect them from major risks like pollution and flooding. Partnerships with state governments, local watershed groups, and public and private organizations are also an important part in implementing this program. More and more frequently although the Government regulates and enforces water quality standards this same body is turning to the private sector to help advance the restoration of impacted watersheds.

GreenVest’s part in watershed protection goes beyond knowledge, expertise and experience in implementing projects. We also like to play a role in educating the public about what can be done. Our work on the Mullica River Mitigation Bank involved implementing innovative restoration techniques to help relieve impacts to the Barnegat Bay Watershed and parts of the Mullica Watershed.  We have many other projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, most notably all having an impact on Chesapeake Bay water quality. These projects required us to collaborate with local watershed protection groups as well as Federal, State and regional regulators.

To learn more about our part in protecting local watersheds, contact us.