What is a Watershed?

Take a look at where you are standing. No matter where you are in the world, you are a part of a watershed.

If you are in Alabama right now, you are most likely standing in one of the most biologically diverse watersheds in the country.

Watersheds can be tricky to understand. To be honest, it was not until I taught fifth graders everyday as an environmental educator that I fully understood what a watershed is, and why the word holds so much value to the work that we do at Coosa Riverkeeper.

Definition: “A watershed is the land that drains into a body of water. More simply, a watershed explains where the water is SHED when it falls off our rooftops, or runs through our storm drains.”

Sharing a watershed with someone means a lot more than you may think. We share our waterways with so many people, animals, and industries. So, the better we understand what a watershed actually is, the more we see how we can directly affect the river, the critters who rely on it, and those who are downstream from us.

As members of Waterkeeper Alliance, our mission is to protect, restore and promote the Coosa River and its tributaries in Alabama, The River State. To protect a river, is to protect the land that surrounds it, it’s entire watershed, or basin.

You don’t have to live near a river to understand how you impact your local waterways. Eventually, the rain that hits your rooftop, will find its way back to skinny water, river, or lake. So, that’s why we care about every rooftop, roadway, and forest in our basin.

The water that is shed unto the rivers is rarely pure rain. A heavy rain carries with it trash, road debris, animal waste, and fertilizers, which the river carries as a burden to the next watershed wh

ile impacting your ability to recreate and compromising public health.

The Coosa River watershed is one of the most developed watersheds in Alabama. The Coosa River is 280 miles long, and its basin is 10,100 square miles. The River begins in Rome, Georgia at the confluence of the Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers. As the river flows through the Middle and Lower Basins, it is met with 5 impoundments that created the lakes so many of youknow and love. Below Jordan Dam, the Coosa River meets the Tallapoosa River to form the Alabama River, that flows to the Mobile Bay. 65% of Alabama’s waters are drained into the Mobile Bay Basin, so caring for a your waterways is im portant for you and your downstream neighbor.


“What is a Watershed” written by Program Manager, Karli Riley

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