Watersheds can be described as a geographical area where all the water (surface rivers, streams, lakes and groundwater including the rain and snowfall), is captured and flows towards a basin or sea.
Watersheds are typically divided by high mountain ridge-lines, and meet in the lowlands where streams connect. In the Fraser Valley, we all live within the Lower Fraser River watershed, and there are sub-watersheds within: such as the Stave River, Chilliwack-Vedder River, SilverHope, Harrison-Chehalis to name a few.
Watersheds provide important social, economic and ecological values.
• safe drinking water (do you know where your drinking water comes from?).
• provides food (think salmon & farming).
• enables us to adapt to the impacts of climate change more easily by cooling the air and absorbing greenhouse gas emissions.
• healthy forests within a watershed create the fresh-air we breathe.
• provides recreation areas such as parks and trails for people to keep active and enjoy nature (think mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, fishing etc).
• produces energy and supply water for agriculture, industry and households.
• forests and wetlands help to prevent or reduce costly climate change impacts. This can include mitigating flooding. Reducing drought and forest fire potentials.
• contributes to tourism, fisheries, forestry, agriculture and mining industries.
• conserves water, promotes streamflow, supports sustainable streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater sources.
• enables healthy soil for crops and livestock.
• provides habitat for wildlife and plants (including pollinators, needed for agriculture).
Watersheds embody many landscapes, and thus watershed management is unique region to region. The Fraser Valley, is a mosaic pf landscapes: agriculture, forests, wetlands, residential and industrial areas among many others. There is a variety of issues that can reduce the health of a watershed, and thus impact our social and societal well-being. While not exhaustive, these are some of the common challenges we have observed in our local watersheds:
• climate change and invasive species encroachment
• point source and non-point source pollution (including run-off and septic fields)
• loss of natural green-spaces from development and land-conversion
• habitat fragmentation (roads, trails, dikes)
• water diversions and dams
• air-pollution (Volatile organic carbon emissions precipitate into our streams and soil)
• loss of riparian (streamside) trees and shrubs (and thus destabilizing streambanks and lack of cooling water)
• garbage: the need for waste diversion
• households: improve our individual footprint (reduce water uses, improve recycling and waste diversion, product selection choices etc.)