Do you live in a watershed?

By Madeline Seveland

Do you live in a watershed? This is a bit of a trick question, phrased almost as if there was a choice in the matter. The answer for everyone is YES because everyone lives in a watershed. A watershed, by its most basic definition is “an area of land that drains to a common body of water.”
When it rains, water flows downhill until it joins the nearest lake, river or wetland. The landscape, hills and valleys, determine which way the water flows and as a result make up the size and shape of the watershed.
Within Carver County, there are eight major different watersheds. Each is named for the creek the water eventually flows into: Carver Creek, Bevens Creek, East Chaska Creek, West Chaska Creek, the Crow River, Minnehaha Creek, Pioneer Sarah and Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek. Some of these watersheds are entirely within Carver County, while others like Minnehaha Creek watershed spread into other counties.
Just like small streams drain into larger rivers, smaller watersheds drain into larger watersheds. For example, Carver Creek, Bevens Creek and East and West Chaska Creek all flow into the Minnesota River thus they are all smaller watersheds in the much larger Minnesota River Watershed.
Even if your home is not next to a lake, river or wetland, you still live in a watershed AND most importantly you are still impacting the lakes, rivers and wetlands in your watershed. How we use the land will affect how clean the water is. If we use fertilizer on our gardens, salt on our sidewalks, blow grass clippings into the street, if we don’t pick up pet waste, or if we spill a chemical on our driveway and don’t clean it up, all these pollutants get washed into a water body with the next rainstorm.
Through the necessary improvement of our societies, we have changed our watersheds.
In a natural watershed, rain used to fall on vegetated areas like grass and trees. Thus, most of it was absorbed by the vegetation or soaked into the ground. In a natural watershed, about 50 percent of the rain soaks into the ground. As we developed the landscape of our watershed adding building, roads, sidewalks and parking lots we change that way rain acts when it falls on our land.
Instead of soaking into the ground, the rain in a developed watershed hits these hard surfaces and runs off, called stormwater runoff. About 55 percent of the rain falling on a developed watershed runs off straight into our lakes, rivers and wetlands, picking up and carrying with it any pollutants in its path.
You can help reduce this increase in stormwater runoff by building a raingarden, using a rainbarrel, making sure your gutters outlet on to grasses and gardens not driveways and sidewalks. The Carver County Water Management Organization has a cost share program to help finance installation of some practice like raingardens and water retention systems. Some things you can do to help reduce pollutants are blowing grass clippings on the lawn when mowing, reducing or not using fertilizers and pesticides, shoveling snow right away to reduce the need for salt later, picking up pet waste, and not dumping down stormdrains.
These actions will help protect the lakes, rivers and wetlands in your watershed. Find more ways to help at www.co.carver.mn.us/water.

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