Serving a Watershed-Based Organization: Why Natural Boundaries Matter
This is my second term of AmeriCorps and the second term in which my host site is focused at the watershed level. Last year, people often expressed confusion about what a watershed is, and why an organization would establish themselves based on such a region. Put simply, a “watershed” is all of the land area that drains into the same body of water – it’s like a land basin which catches and then funnels water (and all it contains) toward a particular place. In the case of the Umpqua (River) Watershed, the area encompassed within its boundary drains from smaller creeks and streams into Umpqua River, and then into the Pacific Ocean.
Sometimes people wonder why environmental organizations aren’t solely based within a city, county, or state. It is important to remember that the lines where one community or state ends and another begins are human constructs – people established where those boundaries would be, and these borders didn’t always take natural features of the environment into account.
A problem that can arise when decisions aren’t made at the watershed or larger ecoregion level is that the people and other organisms downstream can be negatively impacted. For example, if a community upstream is allowed to divert large amounts of water for agricultural irrigation or factory use without being mindful of those living downstream, then the communities and ecosystems further along the river might not have enough; if communities upstream are allowed to dump certain toxins and pollutants into the waterway, the communities and ecosystems downstream will end up with unclean, unusable water. Taking a wider view, and focusing on a natural boundary such as a watershed makes a lot of sense ecologically and in terms of the natural resources that we and other living beings use.
I am grateful to be serving another organization which takes such a natural boundary into account. If you have a youngster at home who might be interested in learning more about our local river, check out the latest activities in the Home Explorer series!