Pennsylvania Watersheds

What’s all this about watersheds and their condition? Do the wild animals, birds, and fish have clean, healthy places to live? Do you care about the streams, lakes or wetlands in your neighborhood? Do you know where your drinking water comes from? Is it being polluted by storm runoff, industrial wastes, or other local sources of pollution?pasheds

Water is one of Pennsylvania’s most precious and basic resources. Pennsylvanians use 14.3 billion gallons of water every day. Almost all of it — 13.7 billion gallons — is returned to the environment. That means that each of us has a special responsibility to use water in ways that do not harm aquatic life and other water users downstream. But we also must be concerned about water in other ways. Our activities, as individuals and as communities, can have a big impact on the severity and frequency of floods that cause loss of life and property damage. That’s what watershed protection is all about.

What is a Watershed
Generally speaking, watersheds are areas of land that drain water into streams, lakes and other bodies of water. Topography (changes in elevation) directs the flow of water downhill – so all water flowing into a certain stream is considered the watershed area for that stream.



When it comes to water quality, individuals who do not live next to a stream may find it difficult to understand how their actions can impact water quality. No matter how distant you are from a waterway – through creeks, rivers, and underground springs – we are all connected because we all live downstream.

“Point source” pollutants for instance, such as pipes that illegally discharge into our waterways, are just part of the problem. We now realize that a large portion of water pollutants come from sources which cannot be easily pinpointed. Our nation’s waters are under siege by a subtle, yet dangerous threat known as non point source (NPS) pollution.

Non point source (NPS) pollution occurs when rainwater washes over paved and unpaved surfaces carrying pollutants with it that eventually end up in rivers, streams, groundwater and the ocean. These pollutants can be harmful in our water quality and the plants and animals that live in the water bodies. Because NPS pollution is so difficult to control, it is up to everyone to do their part to prevent and reduce NPS pollutants.


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