Thursday, February 13, 2014

6 Ways to Love your Watershed

This Valentine’s Day, why not spare a thought for your watershed when considering the loved ones in your life? That area of land around you that drains to a common water body, your watershed, does hard work to give you clean and sustaining water. But rather than chocolate and flowers, it would probably prefer you invest in some of these goodies:  

  1. You should probably learn the name of the object of your affection. EPA’s Surf Your Watershed will allow you to do so by searching your zip code, city name, local stream name, or even its Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC). 
  2. Once you’ve found your watershed, you have the opportunity to look at your watershed’s health. Impairments listed for each watershed will tell you what ails your beloved. IWRC’s watershed is afflicted with high phosphorus and nitrogen levels and a very small number of scary things like DDT.
  3. Knowing what hurts your watershed means that you can help heal it. And when it comes to watersheds, the little things really do count, like washing your car at the carwash where the water gets treated. You could also try doing the things you hear about all the time: don’t litter, don’t dump, especially around storm drains, turn off the water when brushing your teeth (or find out your water footprint and cut down on all your water use), use natural lawn care, and safely dispose of unwanted medicines.
  4. Like making anyone feel appreciated, a little quality time can work wonders. Your local non-profits, schools, and municipalities probably sponsor watershed cleanup days. Consider participating. You can find cleanup opportunities all over the nation through organizations like American Rivers, which runs the National River Cleanup, or the Ocean Conservancy, which coordinates the International Coastal Cleanup. More locally, the Alliance for the Great Lakes runs the Adopt-a-Beach program to both clean and monitor the Great Lakes. And if you really want to get crazy, the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center runs a citizen science program to monitor Illinois’s streams called RiverWatch. Trainings teach volunteers how to use macroinvertebrates and water chemistry to determine the health of their local watersheds.
  5. We talk about the things we love. Want to gab about your watershed? Why not join us at Illinois Water 2014, or sign-up for updates from your local watershed groups (helpfully listed on Surf Your Watershed)? Have an idea for what to talk about at Water 2014? Let us know!
  6. But most of all, don’t forget your watershed. Don’t just think about it on Valentine’s Day. What you do upstream will end up in someone else’s downstream, whether that’s his or her back yard, drinking water, food, habitat, national park, or means of making a living. Our actions always draw a reaction. It’s a basic law of physics, and it’s true for water, too.