We all live in a “watershed”. No matter where you are, the land under your feet drains to a ditch, stream, river or pond whenever there is a rain storm or snow melt. A watershed is all of the land that drains into a common body of water. Picture a funnel—anything that you put into it, will eventually flow through it and out the bottom. That is what happens every time we do something on the land.
Our watersheds are impacted by two general types of pollution. “Point source” pollution occurs when the pollutant flows directly from a source through a pipe, outfall or conveyance channel, usually from a treatment facility of some type. Since the 1970s much of this pollution has come under regulation.
“Nonpoint source” pollution is broader in scope and results from rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the land. It can include runoff from a parking lot or barnyard, fertilizers improperly applied, or disturbed soil from a construction site or a farm field. We, the “stakeholders” all contribute to nonpoint source pollution through our everyday activities.
Improving our waterways is the responsibility of everyone. It is estimated that at least 40 percent of our streams and rivers are still polluted despite years of environmental regulations.
(Courtesy of the St. Joseph River Basin Planning Commission)