Water-Earth Dynamics, Challenge 2: Know Your Watershed

A watershed, or drainage basin, collects water from rain and snowmelt and funnels it downslope into waterways such as streams, which in turn convey the water to larger rivers, lakes, playas, wetlands, estuaries, or the ocean.  We all live in a watershed.  Watersheds are the places we call home, where we go to school or work, and where we play.

Healthy watersheds are vital for a healthy environment and economy.  Our watersheds provide water for drinking, irrigation, and industry.  Many people also enjoy lakes and streams for their beauty, boating, fishing, and swimming.  Wildlife also needs healthy watersheds for food and shelter.

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board are collaborating on the development of watershed protection plans for Texas.

Your school has been asked to help these agencies by conducting a survey of the watershed in which you live.  To do this, you must (1) define the size and boundaries of the watershed, estimate the amount of precipitation that it collects, and identify the major stream draining the watershed and its tributaries.  Once you have characterized your watershed, (2) use Google Earth and available maps to determine the different uses of your watershed, its terrain, soil type, and wildlife.  For a survey of water quality, (3) use the TWDB Atlas and Web site to find data.  Finally, (4) use discharge data available from the USGS to create a 10-year stream hydrograph for the major river that drains your watershed.

You will use different forms of media to present the results of your survey to the agencies.