Identifying Your Watershed
The first step to protecting the health of your rivers, lands and communities is knowing more about your watershed, and where your community fits in to the bigger picture. Complete the "Getting to Know Your Watershed" exercise below to start building a stronger connection to your watershed!
Activity Source: Adapted from The American Geosciences Institute's (AGI) activity list for Earth Science Week
Goal: To identify the watershed you live in, source of water used at home, and pathway of surface runoff in your watershed.
Step 1: Find your watershed.
- Open the Oregon Explorer interactive map viewer at https://tools.oregonexplorer.info/OE_HtmlViewer/Index.html?viewer=oe#
- Pop-up dialogue box might open, which gives an overview of functionality / tools - review and then click "Close" on the bottom right
- On the left, scroll down through the Home side bar and click "Go To Layers"
- Scroll down in Layers to "Water and Air" - click in the check box to add this set of layers, then click the + sign to the left of Water and Air to expand this category.
- Scroll down under the "Water and Air" layer to "Watersheds" and click the check box. Click the + sign to expand this category.
- Go ahead and add layers showing Hydrologic Boundaries (i.e. watersheds) at different levels to see larger and smaller watersheds. 1st level is Columbia River watershed. If you click on this, a blue outline will appear - showing the Columbia River watershed boundaries. Zoom in on the map to view additional Hydrologic Boundaries. Note that some layers aren't available to display until you zoom in close enough - if the one you want to see is grayed out and not clickable, zoom in until it becomes available. You can use your mouse's scroll wheel or the + and - signs in the top left of the map to zoom in and out on the map to find your area and watershed.
- Scroll and zoom through the map until you find where you live.
- As you zoom in, you will notice that as you go to higher levels, the watershed is smaller. The Luckiamute Watershed, for example, is the 5th level.
- Use the i - Identify tool in the tool bar across the top of the map to click on a watershed and identify. The selected watershed(s) will be listed in the left hand tool bar. Click on the > sign to expand and see the information.
Step 2: Once you've located your watershed, answer the following questions.
- What is the name of your fifth level hydrologic boundary (watershed)? How about at the fourth level?
- What is a watershed? Look up a definition online.
- Is your town contained entirely within one watershed? If no, what is the name of the other watershed in your town?
- Is there a town near yours that is in more than one watershed? Identify this town on the map.
- Do watershed boundaries follow political boundaries such as town lines? Why or why not?
- What is the source of your drinking water at home? Is it a private well, river spring or public water supplier? Hint: if you pay a water bill, you get your water from a public water supplier!
- If you get your water from a public water supplier, who can you contact with questions or concerns about your drinking water? Hint: check your latest water bill to find your provider's website and contact information
Bonus Step: Complete the following challenge questions.
Hint: in order to answer the bonus questions, scroll down the Layers menu to the "Water and Air" section, click the + sign and click the checkbox next to the "Rivers and Streams" layer. Then click the check boxes next to "National Hydrography Dataset," and "Flowline Small Scale." Now, as you zoom in, you will see rivers and streams appear on the map, along with their names.
- Water flows from high elevations to low elevations. In a stream or river, water flows from upstream to downstream. What path do you think water follows in your watershed? With your finger, trace the pathway of water draining from the high elevations in your watershed.
- What patterns do the rivers and streams create in your watershed? Sketch the pattern of drainage. What causes these patterns?
- If gasoline spilled into the river upstream from your town, what path do you think the gasoline would take based on your knowledge of river pathways in your watershed? Refer to the watershed map to answer this question.