How Watersheds Work

Protecting Watersheds

Cities like La Jolla, Calif., help protect their watersheds and water supply by reminding citizens not to dump refuse into the storm drain.
Tyrone Turner/National Geographic

Now that you know how important watersheds are, how can help protect them? Several laws exist to protect watersheds. The first was the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act in 1954, helped coordinate federal and state flood prevention efforts. The Act was amended in 1972 to add conservation efforts. In 1996, terms were changed regarding loans for groups carrying out watershed preservation and cleanup projects [source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service]. The World Bank, the United Nations and other world organizations have spent years implementing watershed protection programs around the globe [source: United Nations].

The Environmental Protection Agency also developed a program to help watersheds in 1996. The watershed approach is an environmental management program designed to address the declining watershed health by combining public and private efforts to address the worst contamination issues. Groups in specific watersheds are encouraged to work together within the community to balance preventing pollution and improving the environment with the community's economic development. These watershed teams, as they're called, monitor the watershed and participate in cleanup and restoration projects [source: Environmental Protection Agency].


You don't need the government's assistance to get involved. You can help protect watersheds all by yourself. The fewer pollutants that seep into the soil, the cleaner your watershed and water supply will be. For example, you can recycle your used antifreeze and motor oil instead of dumping them. Trash and dog poop that ends up in storm drains are just as likely to disturb your waterways, so when you take Fido for that walk, bring along a bag.

You can also consider green building techniques that will protect watersheds. Some suggestions from the EPA include:

  • Fix leaky faucets and septic tanks to cut down on wasted water and pollution.
  • Replace asphalt driveways with pavers. This allows for better drainage.
  • Add plants and trees to prevent erosion.
  • Use plants native to the area to reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides, which can seep into the ground and water supply.

 For more information on watersheds and protecting our water supply, please see the links on the following page.

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More Great Links


  • Center for Watershed Protection. (6/25/2008)
  • Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (6/24/2008)
  • Ecological Society of America. (6/25/2008)
  • Environmental Protection Agency. (6/18/2008)
  • Haury, David L. "Studying Watersheds: A Confluence of Important Ideas." ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education. December 2000. (6/23/2008)
  • NatureServe. (6/24/2008)
  • Ohio Watershed Network. (6/18/2008)
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service (6/18/2008)
  • United Nations International Rivers and Lakes Newsletter, June 2002. (8/6/2008)
  • United States Geological Survey (6/18/2008)
  • Water Resources Agency. (6/18/2008)