A watershed is the area of land that drains into a common waterbody.
The contributing water includes both surface water (above-ground) and groundwater (below ground) flow.
Anything that is picked up by the flowing water can be carried to the receiving waterbody.
The moving water is called runoff (or stormwater runoff) and can carry "runoff pollution" with it.
Every waterbody, whether it is a creek, river, lake, ocean or wetland, has a watershed
that is defined by the ridge lines that separate it from adjacent watersheds.
Why do watersheds matter?
Rain that falls anywhere in the watershed will eventually find its way to the creek by flowing over the surface or through the soil just below the surface. As it goes, the water will also carry material from the land surface into the creek. Water picks up dirt and oil while flowing over streets and parking lots, then flows through storm sewers that empty into creeks.
Rainwater will also wash other material from the surface into the creeks: soil and sand, pesticides and herbicides, fertilizers and other chemicals, spilled oil, and wastes of all types (industrial, animal, and human). All the activities in the watershed can potentially affect water flow and water quality, which is why watershed management is such a powerful strategy for environmental action.
What is watershed management?
Watershed management is an approach to protection of ecosystems and human health that focuses on a naturally defined unit (the watershed) and takes in a wide range of interconnected issues that affect it. Watershed approaches usually include comprehensive monitoring of conditions and integrated local planning to maintain and improve conditions. Community involvement in decision making is also an important element of the watershed approach.
Taking a watershed approach to planning can help control pollution, erosion, and flooding and protect the ecology, recreational uses, and esthetic value of our waterways. It also can protect water supplies for drinking and washing: in the Kentucky River basin, 95% of our water supply is from rivers or creeks.
What is a river basin?
A river basin is the watershed of a river: it consists of all the watersheds of all of the creeks that flow into the river. For example, the Kentucky River Basin covers 7,000 square miles and all or part of 41 counties. Water drains off this area through a network of creeks whose combined length is more than 16,000 miles.
What is the Kentucky Watershed Management Framework?
The Kentucky Watershed Management Framework is a watershed approach to protecting human health and the health of the ecosystems on which we depend. The framework's goals are to enhance cooperation between government agencies, develop stronger partnerships among state and local governments and other organizations, and encourage citizen participation in watershed planning.
Major river basins in the state are assigned to five basin management units (Big Sandy/Little Sandy and Tygarts Rivers; Four Rivers; Green/Tradewater Rivers; Kentucky River; Licking River/Ohio River tributaries; Salt River/Ohio River tributaries; and Upper Cumberland River. Each management unit has a basin coordinator and a basin team. Members of the river basin teams come from state agencies and other organizations in the partner network, and serve as a technical resource group.
The watershed framework operates on a five-year cycle of data collection; data assessment; prioritization; plan development; and plan implementation/watershed management activities. The basin team and the basin coordinator compile and distribute information about watersheds in the basin. The team uses this information and the input of local stakeholders to target watersheds for action. Local Watershed Task Forces then draft and execute action plans to address problems. Task forces are ideally drawn from a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the local communities of the watershed.