Watersheds 101: Pollution, Improvement Tips

by Sam Lucas

Caloosahatchee Watershed in Lee County

Watersheds, also known as drainage basins, are areas of land that collect water into creeks, streams, and rivers. These water sources then connect into larger bodies of water, known as outflow points, such as lakes, bays, and oceans. All parts of a watershed are connected, and the size of a watershed varies depending on whether it is viewed from a local or regional level.

There are two types of pollution that can impact the health of a watershed: point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution. Point source pollution is direct contamination, something that you are able to “point to” and know that is the source. For example, a pipe that is expelling sewage into a bay. Nonpoint source pollution such as fertilizers, oil, litter, and animal waste are trickier to pin down and the majority of it is attributed to runoff. Watersheds are impacted by activities occurring in areas before the outflow point. As precipitation occurs and water moves, it picks up pollutants along the way.

All pollutants, whether they be point source or nonpoint source, negatively impact the health of the watershed and the outflow point that it travels to.

Here are five quick tips to help improve the health of your watershed:
1. Do not litter. Properly dispose of waste into a trash can or recycling bin.
2. Minimize fertilizer use on lawns and gardens. Nutrient runoff can add to algae and plant growth within waterways.
3. Clean up pet waste and properly dispose of it. When washed away during a rainstorm, pet waste has the potential to contribute to bacteria problems within waterways.
4. Conserve water inside and outside your home whenever possible.
5. Plant native landscaping. Native plants require less water and fertilizers than nonnative species.

To learn more about your watershed and its location, visit the United States Geographical Survey’s website: water.usgs.gov/wsc/watershed_finder.html

Part of the SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) Family, Coastal Watch creates and implements conservation initiatives that promote and improve the future of marine resources and, our coastal heritage. For more information about Coastal Watch, please visit sancapcoastalwatch.org or contact coastalwatch@sanibelseaschool.org.

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