What is a Watershed?

Water is one of the most important resources on earth, and is certainly very important to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Not only do fish need water to breathe, but every living thing on earth needs water to survive. Did you know that bodies of water are connected? For example, the yellow perch in the lake and the brook trout in the stream are connected, because water disperses into a watershed.

What is a watershed?

To put it simply, a watershed is the area of land where all of the water drains to the same place. This water comes from lakes, streams, rivers, precipitation, and any other form of water in the watershed’s boundary. Water is a very important resource, and all living things within the watershed are as interconnected as the water itself. The largest watershed in Northeast Ohio is our very own Lake Erie. Many water systems drain into our lake, linking all of the plants, animals and people in the tri-state area.

Water comes to the earth’s surface as precipitation, such as rain or snow. This precipitation can seep into the ground or it will flow into surface water, like streams and lakes.
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You may think that only the water in the streams and lakes would contribute to the water flow within the watershed, but the water in the earth, or ground water, is part of the watershed too. Ground water is the water that fills the empty spaces in the soil, and is a very important concept. Animal waste, pesticide, and other chemicals can be absorbed in the groundwater, which then flows downward and is dispersed throughout the entire watershed. This process is called leaching. Because the watershed is so interconnected, everybody can be affected by this.

Water Quality is very important when discussing watersheds, and it is the measure of biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of water in relation to its use.

Erosion occurs when the topmost layer of soil is removed from the ground and drifts into the water, where it settles. Sedimentation is the tendency for the soil particles to drift in the water and settle against a barrier like a rock or log, causing buildup. Both sedimentation and erosion can cause chemical and waste to accumulate, which will lower water quality and endanger the lives of the organisms in the watershed.

Know your watershed!

Did you know that in the state of Ohio, there are 45 watersheds? Watersheds don’t follow state lines. Some of the watersheds that are part of Ohio are also part of other states, like Pennsylvania, Indiana, or Kentucky. The area around the Greater Cleveland Aquarium lies on top of two different watersheds, the Ashtabula Chagrin Watershed and the Cuyahoga Watershed. Both of these watersheds spread across multiple counties.

Do you want to know more about how watersheds work and what steps you can take to keep our waterways clean? Visit the Northeastern Ohio Regional Sewer Districts Watershed website! The NEORSD works constantly to improve water quality, and keep our watersheds healthy!

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