Regardless of where you live, your property is part of a watershed. This watershed is an area consisting of numerous streams and waterways, some of which might originate on your property.
Watersheds are dynamic and unique. A single watershed hosts a complex web of natural resources — soil, water, air, plants and animals. Technically, a watershed is a divide separating one drainage basin from another, but the term is also used broadly to describe the entire drainage basin or catchment area.
Why is Your Watershed Important?
Watersheds are the places we call home, where we work and where we play. Healthy watersheds are vital for a healthy environment and economy. Our watersheds provide water for drinking, irrigation and industry. Rivers, lakes and streams are a source of beauty and recreation like boating, fishing and swimming. Wildlife needs healthy watersheds for food and shelter.
Watersheds are important because they are the places where we live, work and play. Healthy watersheds are vital for a healthy environment and economy by providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. We not only all live in a watershed, but are also affected negatively by contaminants present in them. Once contaminants enter our watershed, they affect us all. The best way to protect vital natural resources is to understand and manage them on the watershed level.
Pollutants and Water Quality
In the past, most water quality problems were traced to the most obvious cause, such as a pipe from a factory. This “end of pipe” source of pollution is known as a point source. However, pollution from a tree harvesting operation is typically in the form of nonpoint source pollution, which is more difficult to isolate and control.
Nonpoint source pollution often results from a wide variety of activities over a broad area. The largest contributors to nonpoint source pollution outside of urban areas are agriculture, mining and forestry activities.
In many cases there are easy steps to curb nonpoint source pollution. Keep livestock out of streams and other waterbodies. They erode stream banks and contaminate water with their waste.
When conducting forestry activities, ensure good management practices that protect streams from sediment and log debris. What may seem like harmless remains of a logging operation can easily roll downhill into streams. Large woody debris can get trapped in the stream, then erode the stream banks and actually change the stream flow. Sediment blocks out sunlight from the water, making photosynthesis impossible for plants and algae. Sediment and debris buildup cause stream temperature to increase, which in turn depletes the water of oxygen. This is not only toxic to fish, but to much of the plant life that helps naturally filter our water.
Even small steps, like keeping harvest activities outside of protective buffer zones, protect a stream and its inhabitants. Tree canopy provides shade that helps regulate water temperature. See the Land and Water Protection Measures section for specific guidelines to protect water quality before, during and after a harvest operation.
Did you find this information useful?