Unit 2 – Introduction to Watersheds and Salmonids

Components:

  • A Short Course on Watersheds
  • What are Salmonids?
  • Learning Activities
  • Water – The Constant Traveler
  • Finding Your Ecological Address
  • Tyee’s Magnificent Journey

 

Prologue – A Native American Legend

Clarence Pickernell, a Quinault-Chehalis-Cowlitz Indian from Tahola, Washington told this legend in February 1951. He had heard it from his great grandmother. Pickernell pronounced the closing words rapidly – in a rhythm and with a hand movement to suggest the lapping of water against the shore.

One time when the world was young, the land west of where the Cascade Mountains now stand became very dry. This was in the early days before rains came to the earth. In the beginning of the world, moisture came up through the ground, but for some reason, it stopped coming. Plants and trees withered and died. There were no roots and no berries for food, and water in the streams became so low that salmon could no longer live there. The ancient people were hungry. At last, they sent a group of their people westward to ask Ocean for water.

“Our land is drying up,” they told him. “Send us water lest we starve and die.”

“I will send you my sons and daughters,” Ocean promised the ancient people. “They will help you. ” Ocean’s sons and daughters were Clouds and Rain. They went home with the messengers from the dry country. Soon there was plenty of moisture. Plants and trees became green and grew again. Streams flowed with water, and many fish lived in them again. Roots and berries grew everywhere. There was plenty to eat. But the people were not satisfied with plenty. They wanted more. They wanted to be sure they would always have water. So they dug great pits and asked Clouds and Rain to fill them. Clouds and Rain stayed away from their father, Ocean, so long that he became lonely for them. After many moons, he sent messengers to ask that his sons and daughters be allowed to come home.

“Let my children return home,” he sent word to the ancient people. ”You have enough water for the present, and I will see that you have enough in the future.”

But the people were selfish and refused to let Clouds and Rain go. The messengers had to return to Ocean without his sons and daughters. The Ocean told his troubles to the Great Spirit.

“Punish the people for their evil ways,” prayed Ocean. “Punish them for always wanting more and more.” The Great Spirit heard his prayer. He leaned down from the sky, scooped up a great amount of earth, and made the Cascade Mountains as a wall between Ocean and the dry country. The long and deep hole left where the earth had been, Ocean soon filled with water. Today, people call it Puget Sound.

The people east of the mountains are still punished for their selfishness and greed. Ocean sends so little moisture over the range that they do not have all of the plants that grow along the coast. But they still have the pits their grandfathers dug. They are Lake Chelan and the lakes south and east of it.

Ocean still grieves for his sons and daughters who did not come home. All day and all night along the beach he calls to them and sings their mournful song: “Ab’tab lab’ tab lab’! Ab tab lab’! Ab tab lab’ tab lab’ Come Home! Come Home!”

A Short Course on Watersheds

(Background information for learning activities “Water – The Constant Traveler, and “Finding Your Ecological Address”)

All land on earth is a watershed. Humans and their activities play an important and essential role in watersheds, yet few people understand them. Still fewer know the dynamics and boundaries of the watersheds in which they live. If you were to stand in a stream bed and look upstream at all the land the stream drains, you would be looking at the stream’s watershed. Almost all the area of a watershed is land, not water. And almost everything that occurs on that land influences the stream’s ecological health.

A river and its branching collector streams stretch through a watershed area and gather water along their way, collecting particulates and pollution from a variety of activities on land. Understanding this process is key to an awareness of how human actions affect water quality as well as fish, wildlife, and the natural processes within a watershed area. When students are able to perceive (in a concrete way) the connectedness of all the living things within their watershed, they can begin to develop a sense of ecological responsibility.

A watershed is a system. It is the land area from which water, sediment, and dissolved materials drain to a common watercourse or body of water. For each watershed there is a drainage system that conveys rainfall to its outlet. A watershed may be the drainage area surrounding a lake that has no surface outlet, or a river basin as large as that of the Columbia River. Within a large watershed are many smaller watersheds that contribute to overall streamflow.

The border between two watersheds is called a divide. A watershed is drained by a network of channels that increase in size as the amount of water and sediment they must carry increases. Streams are dynamic, open-water systems with channels that collect and convey surface runoff generated by rainfall, snowmelt, or groundwater to the estuaries and oceans. The shape and pattern of a stream is a result of the land it is cutting and the sediment it must carry.

Stream Orders
In most cases, a watershed system is almost entirely hillside. Only about 1 percent of a watershed is stream channel. The smallest channels in a watershed have no tributaries and are called first-order streams. When two first-order streams join, they form a second-order stream. When two second-order channels join, a third-order stream is formed, and so on. First- and second-order channels are often small, steep, or intermittent. Orders six or greater are larger rivers. Channels change by erosion and deposition. Natural channels of rivers increase in size downstream as tributaries enter and add to the flow. A channel is neither straight nor uniform. In upstream reaches, the channel tends to be steeper. Gradient decreases downstream as width and depth increase. The size of sediments tends to decrease, often from boulders in the hilly or mountainous upstream portions, to cobbles or pebbles in middle reaches. More sand or silt are found downstream. In some cases, large floods cause new channels to form, leaving once-productive streams dry and barren.

Streamflow Types
Besides the ordering system previously described, streams may be classified by the period of time during which flow occurs.

Perennial flow indicates a nearly year-round flow (90 percent or more) in a well-defined channel. Most higher-order streams are perennial.

Intermittent flow generally occurs only during the wet season (50 percent of the time or less).

The physical, chemical, and biological makeup of a stream relates to surrounding physical features of the watershed and geologic origin. Analysis of these features aids understanding of stream-watershed relationships and predicts effects of human influences on different stream types.

Factors Affecting Watersheds

CLIMATE
Land and water are linked directly by the water cycle. Solar energy drives this and other cycles in the watershed. Climate – the type of weather a region has over a long period of time – is the source of water. Water comes to the watershed in seasonal cycles, principally as rain or snow. In some areas, condensation and fogdrip contribute water. The seasonal pattern of precipitation and temperature variation controls streamflow and water production. Some precipitation infiltrates the soil and percolates through permeable rock into groundwater storage and recharge areas called aquifers. Natural ground water discharge is the main contributor to streamflow during dry summer and fall months. Without groundwater discharge, many streams would dry up.

Pumping water from an aquifer for industrial, irrigation, or domestic use reduces the aquifer’s volume. Unless withdrawals are modified or recharge increased, the aquifer will eventually be depleted. A drained aquifer can collapse from the settling of the overlying lands. Collapsed underground aquifers no longer have as much capacity to accept and hold water. Recharge is difficult, volume is less, and yields are considerably reduced. Springs once fed from the water table also dry up.

Climate affects water loss from a watershed as well as provides water. In hot, dry, or windy weather, evaporation loss from bare soil and water surfaces is high. The same climatic influences that increase evaporation also increase transpiration from plants. Transpiration draws on soil moisture from a greater depth than evaporation because plant roots may reach into available moisture supply. Transpiration is greatest during the growing season and least during cold weather when most plants are relatively dormant.

Wind may cause erosion, control the accumulation of snow in sheltered places, and may be a significant factor in snowpack melting. Wind erosion can occur wherever wind is strong and constant, or where soil is unprotected by sufficient plant cover.

PHYSICAL FEATURES
It is not surprising that the size of a watershed affects the amount of water in it. Generally, a large watershed receives more precipitation than a small one, although greater precipitation and runoff may occur on a smaller watershed in a moist climate than on a large watershed in an arid climate. Shape and slope of a watershed and its drainage pattern influence surface runoff and seepage in streams draining the watershed. The steeper the slope, the greater is the possibility for rapid runoff and erosion. Plant cover is more difficult to establish and infiltration of surface water is reduced on steep slopes.

Orientation of a watershed relative to the direction of storm movement also affects runoff and peak flows. A rainstorm moving up a watershed from the mouth releases water in such a way that runoff from the lower section has passed its peak before runoff from the higher sections has arrived. A storm starting at the top and moving down a watershed can reverse the process.

Orientation of a watershed relative to sun position affects temperature, evaporation, and transpiration. Soil moisture is more rapidly lost by evaporation and transpiration on steep slopes facing the sun. Watersheds sloping away from the sun are cooler, and evaporation and transpiration are less. Slopes exposed to the sun usually support different plants than those facing away from the sun. Orientation with regard to the prevailing winds has similar effects.

SOILS AND GEOLOGY
Soil is a thin layer of the earth’s crust. It is composed of mineral particles of all sizes and varying amounts of organic materials. It is formed from breakdown of parent rocks to fine mineral particles. This occurs by:

  • Freezing and thawing in winter
  • Heating expansion and cooling contraction in summer
  • Wind and water erosion
  • The grinding action of ice
  • Gravity rockfall and avalanche movement
  • Rock minerals in rain and snowmelt water
  • Chemical action of lichens and other plants

There are two types of soils:

  1. Residual soils: those developed in place from underlying rock formations and surface plant cover.
  2. Transported soils: those transported by gravity, wind or water. Characteristics of residual soils are closely related to the parent material from which they were formed.

Climate, particularly precipitation and temperature, strongly affects soil formation. Rainfall causes leaching – movement of dissolved particles through soil by water. Temperature affects both mechanical breakdown of rocks and breakdown of organic material. Soil bacteria, insects, and burrowing animals also play a part in breakdown and mixing of soil components. Soil often determines which plants will establish a protective vegetative cover. Plants also modify and develop soil. Plant roots create soil spaces. Plant litter adds organic matter to soil and extracts water and minerals in solution through the roots. Plant litter slows surface runoff and protects the soil surface from rainfall’s beating and puddling effects. Soil depths and moisture-holding capacities are usually less on steep slopes, and plant growth rates are slower.

Forage, timber, and water are all renewable resources. Water is renewed by cycles of climate. Forage and timber are renewed by growth in seasonal cycles. The availability of these resources is dependent upon soil. Soil is, except over long periods, a non-renewable resource. It may take more than a century to produce a centimeter of soil and thousands of years to produce enough soil to support a high-yield, high-quality forest, range, or agricultural crop. Soil is the basic watershed resource. Careful management and protection is necessary to preserve its function and productivity.

VEGETATIVE COVER
Grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees make up the major plant cover types. All four types build up organic litter and affect soil development. They usually develop under differing climatic conditions, and all are important to watershed management.

A forest usually includes — in addition to trees in various stages of growth — an understory of shrubs and a low ground cover of forbs and grasses. While all plants in a forest have some effect on water, trees are the most important. Tree-litter fall protects the soil’s surface. Tree roots go deep into the soil and help bind it, and tree crowns provide the most shade. The effects of shrubs and grasses are similar to those of trees including increased protection for soil against the beating action of rain and drying action of the wind.

Plant cover benefits a watershed. The canopy intercepts rain and reduces the force with which it strikes the ground. The canopy and stems also reduce wind velocity.
When leaves and twigs fall, they produce litter, which decomposes and is eventually incorporated into the soil. Litter protects the soil surface, allows infiltration and slows down surface runoff. Stems and roots lead water into the ground. Roots open up soil spaces for water retention and drainage as well as add organic materials to the soil. The movement of minerals from roots to canopy provides recycling. Windbreaks of trees and shrubs protect crops and reduce moisture losses from evaporation. Grasses, trees, and shrub stems along riverbanks trap sediments and floating debris during high water flows. Roots bind and stabilize stream banks and slopes to reduce slides and slumps. While all plants in a forest have some effect on water, trees are the most important.

Management Considerations

Water quality is largely determined by the soils and vegetation in a surrounding watershed. Accordingly, human activities have pronounced impacts on watershed quality. These activities include timber harvesting, livestock grazing, agriculture, recreation and urban or industrial development.

TIMBER HARVEST
Timber harvest opens and reduces plant cover density. Timber harvest may not negatively affect a watershed if slope and soil are carefully considered and plant cover rapidly restored. In snow zones, timber harvest can improve snow catch and modify snowmelt rate. Washington and several other states have passed laws called Forest Practices Acts to ensure consideration of soil and water resources during timber harvest.

AGRICULTURE
Domestic livestock tend to concentrate in specific areas when grazing. Concentrated grazing impacts plant cover and soil. Grass cover can be improved by removing some of the annual growth, but forage productivity can be greatly reduced if overgrazing occurs. Improperly timed grazing, grazing too many animals, or grazing for too long can change vegetation over a period of years to species of lower value. Overuse of
rangelands by native grazing animals can also seriously damage plant cover.
Excessive trampling by grazing animals can contribute to soil compaction, accelerate runoff, and create erosion problems. Trampling can also help scatter seeds and incorporate them onto the soil for regeneration.

Management of livestock and grazing wildlife species can enhance watershed values, but is limited by the carrying capacities of the land and the forage species it will support. Management must consider timing, density and duration of animal use to capitalize on the positive aspects of grazing. Generally, recovery does not occur if vegetation is thinned to less than 70 percent of the natural cover. Without management practices such as reseeding, degradation will continue.

Crop production usually involves removal of the original plant cover and tilling the soil for seedbed preparations. Crop cover is usually seasonal and less dense them natural cover. This provides less protection for the soil. Erosion by both wind and water may remove the finer and more fertile soil particles, reducing land productivity. Agricultural operations based on careful appraisal of soil, slope, and climatic conditions include erosion control and are compatible with watershed management.

Plant cover affects water through growth and transpiration. Shade and mulch formed by plant litter reduce evaporation of soil moisture. Plant roots can take up available soil moisture to a greater depth than evaporation. An example is accelerated brush encroachment, particularly juniper, on central and eastern Washington uplands. Increased juniper stands have, in part, decreased summer stream flows. Juniper competes more successfully than other vegetation for available moisture. This reduces ground cover and may cause increased runoff and less infiltration to groundwater storage. In addition, juniper roots can tap groundwater storage. Juniper’s high transpiration rate leaves less water for stream runoff as summer progresses.

FIRE
Fire is one of the most widespread and destructive agents affecting plant cover. Under certain conditions, fire can nearly remove cover and organic litter, and, in extreme cases, sterilize and change the chemistry of the surface soil. Burning converts organic materials in plant cover, litter, and topsoil to gases and soluble, readily-leached ashes that can make acid soils alkaline. Damage to soil varies, but it may take several seasons for soil conditions to return to normal. Without a protective canopy and litter, the soil surface is rapidly puddled and sealed by the first rains. Infiltration is greatly reduced, making runoff and erosion more rapid. Debris-laden floods often occur within fire-denuded watersheds during only slightly abnormal rainfall. Most of the water falling on a burned landscape is lost by rapid runoff. Water that infiltrates is probably lost by evaporation. Streams from burned watersheds at first carry a heavy load of salts dissolved from ashes, floating debris, and erosion sediments. Water quality may soon return to normal, except for sediment-laden high flows. Water levels fluctuate and become less dependable. These conditions may continue for several years until the plant cover becomes reestablished on the watershed.

Fire can be beneficial to a watershed when it is carefully managed. It can reduce available fuel and prevent more destructive fires. Fire thins understory seedlings that compete with larger trees for available moisture. Open forest types such as ponderosa pine are maintained by fire.

BEAVERS
The effects of beavers on a watershed can be both positive and negative. Their actions change watershed hydrology as well as damage cover. A beaver dam changes energy flow in its immediate area by turning part of a stream environment into a pond or swamp. If high beaver populations coincide with heavy livestock use, the results can be devastating to streams. On the other hand, their dams can be beneficial as sediment traps and fish habitat. Water held behind a beaver dam is released more slowly over a longer period of time.

MINING
Mining requires opening the earth to remove mineral resources. It is done by stripping off the surface soil and rock layers or by drilling tunnels into the earth to reach minerals. With either method, quantities of waste material are left on the surrounding land. This waste material is subject to erosion, adding to the sediment load of streams draining the mined area. Surface changes include altered topography and drainage. Drainage from mined areas may contain toxic mineral salts harmful to the aquatic habitat. To prevent degradation of the watershed, waste material disposal must be controlled.

DEVELOPMENT
Urban development involves:

  • Clearing, leveling and filling land surfaces
  • Constructing buildings with impermeable roofs
  • Paving roads and sidewalks with impervious materials
  • Installing sewage disposal systems

Such development greatly changes infiltration and runoff, reduces recharge to underground water and increases runoff to produce rapidly fluctuating stream flows. High-quality water is described as cool, clear, clean, colorless, odorless, tasteless, oxygenated, free of floating and suspended materials, and carrying only limited amounts of dissolved materials. As quality is degraded, water becomes less and less useful for most purposes.

Urbanization decreases water quality. Point-source pollutants enter waterways from a specific point. Common point source pollutants are discharges from factories and municipal sewage treatment plants. This pollution is relatively easy to collect and treat. Most municipal wastewater treatment facilities, such as King County’s, use secondary treatment to remove waste materials biologically. Oxygenation and enhanced growing conditions are provided for bacteria and other organisms that break down dissolved organic materials in wastewater. Secondary treatment removes 85-90% of suspended solids and eliminates almost all disease bacteria.

Non-point-source pollution is really a new name for an old problem – runoff and sedimentation. Non-point-source pollution runs off or seeps from broad land areas as a direct result of land use. It comes from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban construction, residential developments, timber harvest, roadsides, and parking lots. Sediment, fertilizers, toxic materials, and animal wastes are major non-point-source pollutants. The diffuse source of these pollutants makes them more difficult to quantify and control than point-source pollutants. Non-point pollution causes more than half the water pollution problems in Washington. The impact of non-point-source pollutants on water quality is variable. Some are potential health hazards or harmful to fish and other aquatic organisms. Streams do have an absorption and disposal capacity for limited amounts of pollutants, but these limits are too often exceeded.

Urban air pollution, especially photochemical smog caused by internal combustion gasoline engine emissions and industrial smokes, has contributed to acid rain. This has had an effect on vegetation, streams, and lakes within watersheds, especially on the east coast and in Canada. The problem continues to grow, and the Pacific Northwest is not immune to the effects of acid rain.

Communication and transportation developments include roads, railroads, airports, power lines and pipelines. All of these may involve disturbance of plant cover, soil, and topography. Road and highway networks, with their impermeable paving and rapid drainage systems may radically change the runoff characteristics of their immediate area. They also require changing the natural topography and drainage, and moving huge amounts of soil and rock. Often these networks are responsible for extensive sediment production and may become the source of other water pollutants. Railroads and airports have similar effects. Power lines and pipelines require open paths through the watershed and access roads for construction and maintenance.

IMPOUNDMENTS
Flood control dams, lined stream channels, dikes and levees to restrict the spread of floodwaters, and channel bed stabilization techniques are all installations that modify channel capacity as well as the rate and volume of streamflow. All are the consequence of human efforts to modify water yields to better meet seasonal needs. Many dams are built and operated to be multipurpose. They:

  • Control floods
  • Store water for irrigation or other consumptive use
  • Regulate flow for navigation
  • Provide power generation

Effects on streamflow and aquatic habitat are similar regardless of purpose. Impoundments, if shallow, allow water to warm, and, if deep, preserve cooler water. As streamflow peaks are reduced and low flows increased, streamflow generally becomes more regular from season to season and year to year regardless of climatic variations. In many cases, reservoirs have added water-based recreation and new fisheries, although their construction may have destroyed stream habitat used by wild fish. A watershed under good management – where water storage occurs in the soils and riparian areas – lessens the need for reservoirs, particularly small headwater impoundments. Water is often seasonally diverted from impoundments and streams for irrigation in agricultural areas. This reduces stream flows during the warm growing season. Some water is returned to the stream by drainage from the irrigated fields. These return flows are warmed and may contain soil salts, fertilizers, and pesticides leached from the fields.

MANAGEMENT OBJECTIVES
The objective of managing a watershed is to maintain a useful vegetative cover and soil characteristics beneficial to regulation of a quality water yield. The usefulness and productivity of the land will be enhanced for other resources and uses. Rivers, hillsides, mountaintops, and flood-formed bottom-lands are all part of one system. When the non-renewable soil resource is protected and maintained in good condition, the dependent renewable resources, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities can be supported.
Timber, forage, minerals, food, and wildlife represent important considerations. Problems arise when development and use of these resources conflict with the primary objective of regulating water yield and maintaining water quality and watershed integrity. These must be considered as part of watershed management, and their use and development must be integrated with management that produces and protects water supplies.

Ownership is the principal institutional control of watersheds. A private individual or public management agency may be free to apply whatever measures believed necessary or desirable on their own land. They may regulate access and prevent use and development of associated resources. Many watersheds are in public or state ownership. Unless segregated and protected by specific legislation or agreement, most are used and developed to take advantage of all resources available for the general public benefit. It is in these multiple-use watersheds that management may face the most serious conflicts and challenges. Here, it becomes necessary to attain a balanced use and development to provide maximum benefits with the least disruption of the water resource. Legislation and government edicts also provide controls that can aid water resource management. These laws may include:

  • Land Use Planning
  • Zoning
  • Permitted and prohibited land uses or types of development
  • Restrictions on water use
  • Limitations on water development
  • Pollution control

Watershed users need to be aware that private actions have public consequences on water quality and quantity.

Summary

Rivers, hillsides, mountaintops, and flood-formed bottom-lands are all part of one system. All are integrated with each other. Hillside shape controls the energy expenditure rate of water flow. All biotic elements in the watershed interact with and modify the energy flow through the system. So it follows that the shape of the watershed is a function of what lives there. The combination of climatic conditions, soil types, topography, vegetative cover, and drainage system define the particular character of each watershed. In an unaltered state, a watershed is in a state of equilibrium. This equilibrium may or may not be the most suitable for the overall quality and contribution of the watershed to the entire picture. Rivers and seas do not stop at state lines or international boundaries. The effects of natural and human processes in a watershed are focused at its outlet, wherever it may be, even if it crosses another state or country’s borders. Each watershed is a part of a larger watershed whose downstream portion may suffer from upstream influences.

What Are Salmonids

Salmon and trout are part of a group of fish known as salmonids. They are a valuable biological, cultural, historical, recreational, and economic resource for Washington and the entire Pacific Northwest.

Some species of salmonids are anadromous, migrating to the ocean and back during their life cycle, while others live their entire lives in streams and landlocked lakes. Washington has five species of Pacific salmon:

  1. Chinook
  2. Chum
  3. Coho
  4. Pink
  5. Sockeye

Our state has three species of trout that are closely related to and in the genus of salmon:

  1. Cutthroat
  2. Golden
  3. Rainbow

One species of true trout: Brown trout.

We have one species of Atlantic salmon (closely related to the brown trout) that has been introduced to some of our lakes.

We have a landlocked variety of sockeye salmon called kokanee.

We have four species of char:

  1. Bull
  2. Dolly Varden
  3. Brook
  4. Lake

Of the trout species, only steelhead rainbow trout and sea-run cutthroat trout are anadromous. Unlike salmon, these anadromous trout do not always die after spawning, often returning to the ocean and living to spawn again.

Salmonids date back to the Miocene geologicvera, and evolved in the cold, oxygen-rich waters of the northern hemisphere. The unique migratory behavior is believed to have originated more than 10,000 years ago as a result of the advancement and receding of the continental ice sheets. It was about this time period that the Pacific salmon became separated from the parent salmon stocks in the Atlantic, and as the great glaciers of the Ice Age melted, safe places for spawning and rearing were revealed. Until the recent century, salmonid populations were not greatly impacted by human populations or activities. Thousands of tributary creeks and rivers of the Northwest teemed with salmon and trout. Over the past 100 years, exploitation of natural resources, including detrimental side effects of technology, have contributed to a dramatic decline of salmonid populations. The first fish hatcheries were built to make up for this decline. Today, some species of salmon are threatened with extinction. Washington hatcheries raise rainbow, golden, cutthroat, brook, and brown trout as well as winter and summer steelhead, spring and fall chinook, chum, coho and kokanee. Spring and fall chinook and winter and summer steelhead are distinguished from each other based on the different seasons they arrive in freshwater on their way to the spawning grounds.

Water: The Constant Traveler

Key Concepts:

  • Water travels through an earth system called the water cycle.
  • The water cycle has many paths for water to follow through the system.
  • The water cycle is powered by the sun and the ocean is the cycle’s reservoir.

Teaching Information:

Water is the priceless resource upon which all growing things depend. Water covers about three-quarters of the earth’s surface. Of this, only a small amount is fresh water, less than one-third of which is usable by humans. The rest is locked in the polar ice caps and in glaciers. Water is continually recycled and transported by the water or hydrologic cycle. The energy for driving this cycle comes from the sun. Water is moved into the atmosphere through evaporation or plant transpiration. This atmospheric vapor is transported by wind, condensed into clouds, and then returned to the earth as precipitation. It is estimated that every nine to 12 days, all moisture in the atmosphere falls to earth, making water our most recycled resource. The water cycle is the foundation for examining water in any form. While this process transports and purifies water, its effectiveness may be reduced by such factors as vegetation removal (reducing transpiration) and atmospheric pollution (adding contaminants to otherwise pure vapor). In Washington, moisture-laden clouds move inland from the Pacific Ocean. As clouds rise over the Olympic Mountains and coast range, their water vapor cools, condenses into drops, and falls as rain. Precipitation continues as the clouds move east, leaving more moisture as they rise over the Cascade Range. Since the Cascades intercept most of the precipitation, a rain-shadow effect is created in Eastern Washington, making it more arid than the western part. Until the clouds reach the Blue, Kettle River, Selkirk, and other distinct mountain ranges, they are no longer forced to climb into cooler air, and the amount of rainfall drops dramatically. The short reading and questions are designed to be done by students on their own, as preliminary work for discussion and the rest of Unit One. However, students could benefit from working with it in small groups or even as a class. The water cycle diagrams could also be completed in groups or individually.

Materials:

Student handout
Extensions
1. Set up a standard distillation apparatus in which students can observe evaporation and condensation of water. Most basic science books describe how this can be done.
2. The following activities from Project WILD:
“How Wet is Our Planet?” Aquatic Project WILD
“Where Does Water Go After School?” Aquatic Project WILD
“Water’s Going On?!” Project WILD.

Key Words: cycle; evaporate; ground water

Answer Key:

Water in the ocean is heated by the sun. When the water has taken in enough energy (heat), it will evaporate and rise into the air (just like heating it in a pan). As it rises, the water cools, condenses, and turns into clouds. When the clouds hold enough water it will probably rain or snow.

Student Reading

Have you ever seen the ocean? It’s so big, you can’t think about it with just one thought. It takes lots of thoughts to take it all in.

Sarah and her little brother Mario saw the ocean for the first time today. After looking at it for a long time, Mario said, “Where does all the water come from? It must take a lot to fill it up!”

“It must come from rivers and streams.” answered Sarah.

“And where does the water come from to fill the rivers and streams?” replied Mario. “Oh, from rain!” he said, before Sarah could answer. “And snow too,” Sarah
added.

“O.K. What about the rain and snow? The water to make them falls from the sky. Where does that water come from?”

This was a harder questlon. They both looked up at the bright, white fluffy clouds and blue sky.

“When it rains,” reasoned Mario,” the rain seems to come from the clouds. But there are clouds now, and it isn’t raining. So, only some clouds have water in them.”

“Rain clouds are darker ~ sort of gray and dark blue,” replied Sarah, still thinking about where the water for rain and snow comes from. “I think the clouds ARE water. Just like fog. And when there’s enough water in the clouds, it rains. Or if it’s cold enough, it snows.”

“Where does the water come from to make clouds?” questioned Mario. Sarah was getting a little tired of answering her brother’s questions, so her answer was a little sharp.

“From the sun!” She really didn’t know the answer either. Do you?

Completing the Water Cycle

You can help Mario and Sarah solve the mystery of the water cycle. Here’s how:

Using the drawing below, draw arrows from the place the water comes from to the place it goes. Use the previous story for clues. Then, try to figure out where the water comes from that makes clouds.

HINT: Have you ever seen steam rising over a pan of boiling water? The heat from the stove burner heats the water until steam is produced. The water would all be turned into steam if it was heated for a long time. The steam goes into the air. Now, think back about the big ocean. Is anything heating it up? If water gets enough energy, it does a surprising thing.

Fill in the blanks below:

Water in the ocean is heated by the _____.
When the water has taken in enough energy, it will _______ and rise into the _______.
As it rises, the water cools, condenses, and turns into _______.
When the clouds hold enough water, it will probably _______ or _______ .

You have drawn what is called a WATER CYCLE, and it’s the way water gets around on our earth. All water, from the big ocean, to clouds, to rain and snow, to creeks, streams and rivers, and underground water (the water that we get from wells) is connected by the water cycle. The ocean is really a big reservoir for this water cycle, because about 98 percent of all the water on the earth is in the oceans! The rest is fresh water, in streams and rivers, or locked up in polar ice caps and glaciers.

But there’s a little more to this water cycle. All plants give off water as a gas (called transpiration). This is another way that water finds its way back into the sky to make clouds. And, most kinds of soil and rock can hold some water. We call this ground water, and it’s the water we tap into when we drill a well. This water eventually ends up in streams and rivers, and on its way to the ocean. Make two more arrows on your water cycle diagram to show how transpiration and ground water fit into the water cycle. Don’t forget to color the thing that powers the water cycle on your diagram. If you can’t remember what that is, review your work above!

Finding Your Ecological Address

Key Concepts:

  • All land on earth is part of a watershed.
  • A watershed is a system that is made up of all the land area from which water, sediment and dissolved materials drain to a common watercourse or body of water.
  • All people live in a watershed.
  • Most activities that are done on the land have some effect on the watercourses that drain the watershed.

Teaching Information:

In the activities that follow, an “ecological address” includes the name of the watershed in which students live as well as each successively larger stream and watershed – up to and including the major river from which the largest watershed usually takes its name. This system also includes the large lakes or the ocean into which that river feeds. These are the systems subject to pollution from failing septic tanks, excess lawn fertilizers, carelessly disposed crankcase oil, and other wastes from human activities. These systems are also affected by silt resulting from disturbed soils in the watershed. When people have a greater understanding of their environment, they gain awareness of how their personal actions, local laws and regulations, and everyday business practices affect the integrity and stability of their ecologica! address and their larger biological community.

Materials for each pair of students:

  • Washington watershed maps
  • State highway map or other map showing streams and rivers in your local area
  • Paper for drawing their own watershed “maps”
  • Colored pencils or markers (can be shared by groups of students)
  • String or yarn (about one foot per student)
  • Copied student readings, if used.

Procedure:

  1. Use one or both student readings to prepare students for this activity, and complete the student activity.
  2. Begin by asking students to share their home mailing or street addresses. Write a few of them on the chalkboard. Explain that these postal addresses have been devised by society – that they are “social” addresses. They are important because people need to be located within their community by family, friends, and services such as the mail, police, fire or ambulance.
  3. Now tell students that they all have another kind of address, called an ECOLOGICAL ADDRESS. Invite students to discuss the meaning of the word “ecological”, eliciting from them the understanding that it refers to the relationship between an organism and its environment. Just as a postal address tells people one way that they are connected to a community, the ecological address tells people how they are connected to the land on which they live. In this activity, the ecological address will be based on an ecological feature they have just started learning about – the watershed.
  4. Have students discuss the term “watershed”. let students share their definitions from the student activity page. Try to develop a class definition, which should be approximate this: all the land area that drains into a particular body of water. Tell students that they will be locating their own ecological addresses by finding and learning about the watershed where they live.
  5. To help students understand the concept of watershed, trace the outline of your hand, wrist and part of your arm on the chalkboard. Color in the space between your fingers and label your arm “Blue River”, TeU the students that this outline is a model for a watershed area. Your fingers represent streams that feed into the larger river (your arm). The colored space between your fingers is land, where people live. Let students know that a watershed’s name is usually taken from the stream or river that serves as the main collector of all the water in the watershed. Ask students what the watershed you just drew would be called (The Blue River Watershed). Write name on the board.
  6. Ask students how large they think watersheds can be, then how small they can be. They should recall some of this from their reading. Impress upon the students that large watersheds include many small watersheds.
  7. Students are now ready to work with the Washington watershed map package. Divide the class into pairs of students and give each pair copies of the watershed maps: 1. – Watershed Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA) in Washington State; 2. – Lake Washington-Sammamish. On map #1, have the students locate WRIA 8. The Lake Washington drainage basin (WRIA 8) is comprised of all the waters funneling into lake Washington then flowing out through lake Union and Salmon Bay into Puget Sound at Shilshole Bay.
  8. On map #2, have students locate the Sammamish River and the Cedar River. The
    Government Locks and Lake Washington Ship Canal were constructed in 1916. Prior to this, the Black River provided outlet at the southern end of Lake Washington. The Cedar River discharged into the Black River immediately below the lake, which then flowed into the Duwamish River to Puget Sound. The ship canal was dredged to provide navigation from Lake Washington through Lake Union to Puget Sound. The height of the locks raised the water level in the ship canal to that of lake Union and lowered the lake level by about nine feet. The Cedar River was diverted into Lake Washington which increased the lake inflow, improving both the circulation and flushing rate.
  9. On map # 2 have students locate the Piper’s Creek watershed by drawing a line around it with colored pencil or marker. Then have them locate Bear Creek watershed in the same way with another color. With a third color, have them draw a line around the entire Kelsey Creek watershed. Use a fourth color to outline Tibbetts Creek watershed. With a fifth color, have them draw a line around the May Creek watershed. With a final color, have them draw a line around Thornton Creek. Make sure all teams have correctly identified the watersheds before asking the following questions:
    a. If you lived two miles north of Renton, in which watershed (or sheds) would you live?
    (You would actually live in the May Creek watershed, which is part of the larger South
    Lake Washington watershed.) Remind students that a large watershed is made up of many smaller watersheds, and that both May Creek and South Lake Washington would be correct answers to the question.
    b. If you lived one mile east of Bitter Lake, in which Watershed would you live?
    (Thornton Creek or North lake Washington)
    c. If you visited the Mercer Slough, in which watershed would you be? (Kelsey Creek)
    d. If you lived less than a mile due west of Issaquah, in which watershed (or sheds) would you live? (You would live in the Tibbetts Creek watershed, which is part of the Issaquah Creek watershed, which is part of the larger Lake Sammamish watershed.
  10. Suggest that everyone lives in a watershed, and ask students to explain why this is true. (All land has waterways running through it that drain into larger waterways. For example, in most urban areas rainwater feeds into storm drains. The drains then feed into nearby streams or rivers.)
  11. Using maps #3 and #4 or a state or local map that shows streams and rivers, have each student name the watershed in which he or she lives. Explain that this watershed is the student’s ecological address, and that this address describes how he or she is connected to the land and water system that drains it. In urban areas that are hilly, a city map will be needed to determine the exact watershed in which a house might be found. Depending on the proximity of waterways, the watershed named should reflect that students’ ecological addresses can have several components, from the smallest watershed they can observe to a larger watershed of which the smaller one is a part. Have some students share their ecological addresses while other students follow along on their own maps.
  12. Have students make a “map” of their ecological address. The map need not be to scale, but it should represent the watershed(s) in which the students live. As an alternative or additional activity, have the entire class make a larger map of the watershed on large sheets of paper.
  13. Have students brainstorm a list of what they think can happen to water as at moves through a watershed. Highlight the things that are caused by human activity. These might include actions such as discarding oil or other wastes into a stream, clearing land (removing vegetation), or washing cars with soaps that contain phosphates (non-biodegradable chemicals). Then have students determine how and where these chemicals would travel in their watershed. They can do this by tracing the path from the smallest tributary in the smallest watershed as it empties into larger and larger watershed areas. Have students repeat the activity, this time looking at non-human influences on watersheds, such as heavy rains, wind, and other natural
    phenomena.
  14. Have students calculate how many miles of stream and river are in their watershed, using the “scale of miles” on the published map. Using string to follow a curving waterway on the map can make measurement easier and more accurate. This measurement will help make clear to students the amount of area impacted by human activities affecting the watershed system.
  15. Using the state or local map, locate the fish hatchery you will be visiting. Identify its ecological address (watershed).

Extensions:

  • Build a list of who and what uses your watershed – from people to fish to wildlife. For each, make a list of the effects on the watershed.

Key Words: ecological

WATERSHED RESOURCE INVENTORY AREAS IN WASHINGTON STATE

(IF WE PLAN TO KEEP THIS, WE NEED NEW MAPS)

STUDENT READING

Water runs downhill – we all know that. The instant that a drop of rain hits the earth, it begins its journey to the ocean (If it falls as snow, it has to wait until it melts!). Of course, not all water drops make it to the ocean. Some are taken up by the roots of plants and are transpired into the air through the plant’s leaves. Some evaporate in puddles, or other areas that hold water. Some filters down into underground areas, moving slowly downhill. But most water drops end up as runoff, the water that finds its way into creeks, streams and rivers. This long or short journey to the ocean takes place within a watershed. If you were to stand in a stream bed and look upstream at all the land the stream drains, you would be looking at the stream’s watershed. Almost all the area of a watershed is land – not water! And almost everything that happens on that land affects the stream that drains it. In other words, ALL land on earth is in a watershed.

Watersheds can be big or small. A mud puddle has a watershed of only a few square feet. The Columbia River in the Western United States has a watershed that is 258,000 square miles. The biggest watershed in the country is the Mississippi River, which drains all the land between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains! Watersheds are separated by ridges, called divides. The Continental Divide of the U.S., for example, is in the Rocky Mountains. All the rain and snow falling on the west side of the divide flows into the Pacific Ocean. All the rain and snow falling on the east side of the divide, sooner or later, ends up in the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, write your OWN definition of a watershed:

STUDENT READING

Since all land is part of a watershed, it follows that all the factors that affect the land also affect the watershed. The boundary between two watersheds is called a divide. A watershed is drained by a network of channels that increase in size as the amount of water and sediment they must carry increases. Streams are dynamic systems with channels that collect and convey surface runoff generated by rainfall, snowmelt or ground-water discharge. The shape and pattern of a stream is a result of the land it is cutting into and the sediment it carries. The stream is forever evolving, always in the process of change.

The climate of an area obviously plays a big part in the processes within the watershed. Land and water are linked directly by the water cycle, usually in the form of rain or snow. Runoff, the gravity-powered journey of water downstream, erodes the rocks and soil of the watershed. At least some of the water percolates into the soil as groundwater. Except for high rainfall events, most of the water running in streams is from groundwater

Humans remove both groundwater and water in streams from the watershed for their own uses. Some of that water is returned to the watershed, sometimes not as clean as it was when removed.

The shape and slope of a watershed affect the speed of runoff, erosion and the amount of water that can percolate into the soil. The steeper the slope, the greater is the possibility for rapid runoff and erosion. The makeup of the soil and rocks within the watershed (some being easier to erode than others) is another factor affecting the rate of erosion and deposition.

Plant cover benefits a watershed. Grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees intercept rain and reduce the force with which it strikes the ground. The plant canopy reduces the effects of wind, and slows runoff and erosion. Plant material also falls into the stream, delivering a vital food and energy source to the creatures of the stream. Plant roots bind together the soil, and reduce erosion by stabilizing stream banks and slopes.

Human activities continue to both help and hurt watersheds. Management of watersheds is essential to their good heath, both from a water quality and watershed quality point of view. Activities such as agriculture, recreation, timber harvest, livestock grazing, urban and industrial development, and mining can be harmful if they are not done carefully. Management of watersheds and their river basins is part of being careful with watersheds, and includes such activities as land use planning, zoning, permitted and prohibited land uses or types of development, restrictions on water use and water developments, pollution control, and citizen involvement in repairing watersheds and management decisions. We call this stewardship, and we are all responsible for it.

Stewardship is alive and well in Washington! People from all walks of life are coming forward to volunteer to help restore damaged watersheds, “adopt” portions of streams and rivers, assist the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies in monitoring fish populations, and teach young people to be responsible anglers. There is much work to be done, but with help from people, watersheds and public attitudes towards them can be improved. Rivers, hillsides, mountain tops, bottom lands, and even groundwater are all part of one system. They are linked together directly by the water cycle and watershed. The combination of climatic conditions, soil types, topography, plant cover, and drainage systems define the character of each watershed. We all live somewhere within a unique watershed. We could say that each of us has an “ecological address,” one that tells us where we live in relation to the watershed above and below us, and defined by the plants and animals that live there with us.

Finding Your Ecological Address

Key Concepts:

  • All land on earth is part of a watershed.
  • A watershed is a system that is made up of all the land area from which water, sediment and dissolved materials drain to a common watercourse or body of water.
  • All people live in a watershed.
  • Most activities that are done on the land have some effect on the watercourses that drain the watershed.

Teaching Information:

In the activities that follow, an “ecological address” includes the name of the watershed in which students live as well as each successively larger stream and watershed – up to and including the major river from which the largest watershed usually takes its name. This system also includes the large lakes or the ocean into which that river feeds. These are the systems subject to pollution from failing septic tanks, excess lawn fertilizers, carelessly disposed crankcase oil, and other wastes from human activities. These systems are also affected by silt resulting from disturbed soils in the watershed. When people have a greater understanding of their environment, they gain awareness of how their personal actions, local laws and regulations, and everyday business practices affect the integrity and stability of their ecologica! address and their larger biological community.

Materials for each pair of students:

  • Washington watershed maps
  • State highway map or other map showing streams and rivers in your local area
  • Paper for drawing their own watershed “maps”
  • Colored pencils or markers (can be shared by groups of students)
  • String or yarn (about one foot per student)
  • Copied student readings, if used.

Procedure:

  1. Use one or both student readings to prepare students for this activity, and complete the student activity.
  2. Begin by asking students to share their home mailing or street addresses. Write a few of them on the chalkboard. Explain that these postal addresses have been devised by society – that they are “social” addresses. They are important because people need to be located within their community by family, friends, and services such as the mail, police, fire or ambulance.
  3. Now tell students that they all have another kind of address, called an ECOLOGICAL ADDRESS. Invite students to discuss the meaning of the word “ecological”, eliciting from them the understanding that it refers to the relationship between an organism and its environment. Just as a postal address tells people one way that they are connected to a community, the ecological address tells people how they are connected to the land on which they live. In this activity, the ecological address will be based on an ecological feature they have just started learning about – the watershed.
  4. Have students discuss the term “watershed”. let students share their definitions from the student activity page. Try to develop a class definition, which should be approximate this: all the land area that drains into a particular body of water. Tell students that they will be locating their own ecological addresses by finding and learning about the watershed where they live.
  5. To help students understand the concept of watershed, trace the outline of your hand, wrist and part of your arm on the chalkboard. Color in the space between your fingers and label your arm “Blue River”, TeU the students that this outline is a model for a watershed area. Your fingers represent streams that feed into the larger river (your arm). The colored space between your fingers is land, where people live. Let students know that a watershed’s name is usually taken from the stream or river that serves as the main collector of all the water in the watershed. Ask students what the watershed you just drew would be called (The Blue River Watershed). Write name on the board.
  6. Ask students how large they think watersheds can be, then how small they can be. They should recall some of this from their reading. Impress upon the students that large watersheds include many small watersheds.
  7. Students are now ready to work with the Washington watershed map package. Divide the class into pairs of students and give each pair copies of the watershed maps: 1. – Watershed Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA) in Washington State; 2. – Lake Washington-Sammamish. On map #1, have the students locate WRIA 8. The Lake Washington drainage basin (WRIA 8) is comprised of all the waters funneling into lake Washington then flowing out through lake Union and Salmon Bay into Puget Sound at Shilshole Bay.
  8. On map #2, have students locate the Sammamish River and the Cedar River. The
    Government Locks and Lake Washington Ship Canal were constructed in 1916. Prior to this, the Black River provided outlet at the southern end of Lake Washington. The Cedar River discharged into the Black River immediately below the lake, which then flowed into the Duwamish River to Puget Sound. The ship canal was dredged to provide navigation from Lake Washington through Lake Union to Puget Sound. The height of the locks raised the water level in the ship canal to that of lake Union and lowered the lake level by about nine feet. The Cedar River was diverted into Lake Washington which increased the lake inflow, improving both the circulation and flushing rate.
  9. On map # 2 have students locate the Piper’s Creek watershed by drawing a line around it with colored pencil or marker. Then have them locate Bear Creek watershed in the same way with another color. With a third color, have them draw a line around the entire Kelsey Creek watershed. Use a fourth color to outline Tibbetts Creek watershed. With a fifth color, have them draw a line around the May Creek watershed. With a final color, have them draw a line around Thornton Creek. Make sure all teams have correctly identified the watersheds before asking the following questions:
    a. If you lived two miles north of Renton, in which watershed (or sheds) would you live?
    (You would actually live in the May Creek watershed, which is part of the larger South
    Lake Washington watershed.) Remind students that a large watershed is made up of many smaller watersheds, and that both May Creek and South Lake Washington would be correct answers to the question.
    b. If you lived one mile east of Bitter Lake, in which Watershed would you live?
    (Thornton Creek or North lake Washington)
    c. If you visited the Mercer Slough, in which watershed would you be? (Kelsey Creek)
    d. If you lived less than a mile due west of Issaquah, in which watershed (or sheds) would you live? (You would live in the Tibbetts Creek watershed, which is part of the Issaquah Creek watershed, which is part of the larger Lake Sammamish watershed.
  10. Suggest that everyone lives in a watershed, and ask students to explain why this is true. (All land has waterways running through it that drain into larger waterways. For example, in most urban areas rainwater feeds into storm drains. The drains then feed into nearby streams or rivers.)
  11. Using maps #3 and #4 or a state or local map that shows streams and rivers, have each student name the watershed in which he or she lives. Explain that this watershed is the student’s ecological address, and that this address describes how he or she is connected to the land and water system that drains it. In urban areas that are hilly, a city map will be needed to determine the exact watershed in which a house might be found. Depending on the proximity of waterways, the watershed named should reflect that students’ ecological addresses can have several components, from the smallest watershed they can observe to a larger watershed of which the smaller one is a part. Have some students share their ecological addresses while other students follow along on their own maps.
  12. Have students make a “map” of their ecological address. The map need not be to scale, but it should represent the watershed(s) in which the students live. As an alternative or additional activity, have the entire class make a larger map of the watershed on large sheets of paper.
  13. Have students brainstorm a list of what they think can happen to water as at moves through a watershed. Highlight the things that are caused by human activity. These might include actions such as discarding oil or other wastes into a stream, clearing land (removing vegetation), or washing cars with soaps that contain phosphates (non-biodegradable chemicals). Then have students determine how and where these chemicals would travel in their watershed. They can do this by tracing the path from the smallest tributary in the smallest watershed as it empties into larger and larger watershed areas. Have students repeat the activity, this time looking at non-human influences on watersheds, such as heavy rains, wind, and other natural
    phenomena.
  14. Have students calculate how many miles of stream and river are in their watershed, using the “scale of miles” on the published map. Using string to follow a curving waterway on the map can make measurement easier and more accurate. This measurement will help make clear to students the amount of area impacted by human activities affecting the watershed system.
  15. Using the state or local map, locate the fish hatchery you will be visiting. Identify its ecological address (watershed).

Extensions:

  • Build a list of who and what uses your watershed – from people to fish to wildlife. For each, make a list of the effects on the watershed.

Key Words: ecological

WATERSHED RESOURCE INVENTORY AREAS IN WASHINGTON STATE

(IF WE PLAN TO KEEP THIS, WE NEED NEW MAPS)

STUDENT READING

Water runs downhill – we all know that. The instant that a drop of rain hits the earth, it begins its journey to the ocean (If it falls as snow, it has to wait until it melts!). Of course, not all water drops make it to the ocean. Some are taken up by the roots of plants and are transpired into the air through the plant’s leaves. Some evaporate in puddles, or other areas that hold water. Some filters down into underground areas, moving slowly downhill. But most water drops end up as runoff, the water that finds its way into creeks, streams and rivers. This long or short journey to the ocean takes place within a watershed. If you were to stand in a stream bed and look upstream at all the land the stream drains, you would be looking at the stream’s watershed. Almost all the area of a watershed is land – not water! And almost everything that happens on that land affects the stream that drains it. In other words, ALL land on earth is in a watershed.

Watersheds can be big or small. A mud puddle has a watershed of only a few square feet. The Columbia River in the Western United States has a watershed that is 258,000 square miles. The biggest watershed in the country is the Mississippi River, which drains all the land between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains! Watersheds are separated by ridges, called divides. The Continental Divide of the U.S., for example, is in the Rocky Mountains. All the rain and snow falling on the west side of the divide flows into the Pacific Ocean. All the rain and snow falling on the east side of the divide, sooner or later, ends up in the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, write your OWN definition of a watershed:

STUDENT READING

Since all land is part of a watershed, it follows that all the factors that affect the land also affect the watershed. The boundary between two watersheds is called a divide. A watershed is drained by a network of channels that increase in size as the amount of water and sediment they must carry increases. Streams are dynamic systems with channels that collect and convey surface runoff generated by rainfall, snowmelt or ground-water discharge. The shape and pattern of a stream is a result of the land it is cutting into and the sediment it carries. The stream is forever evolving, always in the process of change.

The climate of an area obviously plays a big part in the processes within the watershed. Land and water are linked directly by the water cycle, usually in the form of rain or snow. Runoff, the gravity-powered journey of water downstream, erodes the rocks and soil of the watershed. At least some of the water percolates into the soil as groundwater. Except for high rainfall events, most of the water running in streams is from groundwater

Humans remove both groundwater and water in streams from the watershed for their own uses. Some of that water is returned to the watershed, sometimes not as clean as it was when removed.

The shape and slope of a watershed affect the speed of runoff, erosion and the amount of water that can percolate into the soil. The steeper the slope, the greater is the possibility for rapid runoff and erosion. The makeup of the soil and rocks within the watershed (some being easier to erode than others) is another factor affecting the rate of erosion and deposition.

Plant cover benefits a watershed. Grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees intercept rain and reduce the force with which it strikes the ground. The plant canopy reduces the effects of wind, and slows runoff and erosion. Plant material also falls into the stream, delivering a vital food and energy source to the creatures of the stream. Plant roots bind together the soil, and reduce erosion by stabilizing stream banks and slopes.

Human activities continue to both help and hurt watersheds. Management of watersheds is essential to their good heath, both from a water quality and watershed quality point of view. Activities such as agriculture, recreation, timber harvest, livestock grazing, urban and industrial development, and mining can be harmful if they are not done carefully. Management of watersheds and their river basins is part of being careful with watersheds, and includes such activities as land use planning, zoning, permitted and prohibited land uses or types of development, restrictions on water use and water developments, pollution control, and citizen involvement in repairing watersheds and management decisions. We call this stewardship, and we are all responsible for it.

Stewardship is alive and well in Washington! People from all walks of life are coming forward to volunteer to help restore damaged watersheds, “adopt” portions of streams and rivers, assist the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies in monitoring fish populations, and teach young people to be responsible anglers. There is much work to be done, but with help from people, watersheds and public attitudes towards them can be improved. Rivers, hillsides, mountain tops, bottom lands, and even groundwater are all part of one system. They are linked together directly by the water cycle and watershed. The combination of climatic conditions, soil types, topography, plant cover, and drainage systems define the character of each watershed. We all live somewhere within a unique watershed. We could say that each of us has an “ecological address,” one that tells us where we live in relation to the watershed above and below us, and defined by the plants and animals that live there with us.

“Keep the Salmon Coming Home”