The Cuyahoga River commonly caught fire in Cleveland, Ohio.
What is a Watershed?
Is it a building that holds water? Can you live in a Watershed? If you live in a Watershed how do you get out of it? Is it a large tank with a City's name on it? A watershed is simply an area of land that drains to a stream, lake, or body of water. So, it is not a tank or building per say and you do live in one and if you wanted to get out of a watershed you would need to go into outer space. Why are we concerned with watersheds? Because we are concerned with the quality of our water. Everything we do in our watershed effects water. When it rains anything and everything that is on a surface such as the ground, a parking lot, a roof, the roads, etc. can be picked up and carried into our streams and lakes. Why should we be concerned about rain water? Because there are many pollutants in our watersheds such as, oil, grease, dirt, fertilizers, human and animal feces, nutrients, pesticides, etc. So what can and should we do about all this polluted runoff. First let's take a look at how we got here.
Clean Water Act
The clean water act was signed into law in 1972. Before the Clean Water Act the nations waters were very polluted. Pollution discharge from industry, business, and municipalities (raw sewage) was very common. The public became increasingly concerned about the quality of water when they realized that you couldn't safely swim, fish, irrigate, or use it for drinking water, and the critters who depended on the water were dying at alarming rates. The Cuyahoga river caught on fire again in 1969 which was reported nationally and was a catalyst to get environmental laws inacted. Read more about Cuyahoga River . The Clean Water Act mandated pollution limits for discharges of effluent to waters of the United States. The discharges are regulated through a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. For anyone discharging to a water body they need to get a permit from their State which sets limits on the type and amount of pollution they can discharge. The point source program has been very successful since its implementation; however, our streams, rivers, and lakes are still polluted. In 1987, the Clean Water Act was amended to include non-point source runoff which meant that stormwater discharges would need to be permitted. The EPA decided that municipalities would be the permit holders for stormwater discharges from their communities. Under Phase I and II of the non-point source NPDES program most communities are now permitted.
The Water Quality Forum has taken a watershed approach to deal with stormwater pollution. Some of the current efforts are linked below.
If you are interested in adopting a watershed click Here.
Play the watershed map game Watershed Puzzle