The Watershed Community

There are thousands of watersheds in the United States. Some are as small as a few acres, while others encompass millions of square miles, and most are part of larger watersheds. Everyone lives in a watershed regardless of where they reside. Large metropolitan cities, small rural towns, ranches, farms and forests are all located in watersheds. People fortunate enough to live in the Flathead Watershed can actually see most of the water that flows from the land. In some urban watersheds, creeks have long been impounded beneath roads and buildings. But even where the flow of water is restricted or unseen, it nourishes the living world. Wildlife, fish, plants, and humans all share this life-giving water. The health of our watersheds determines the health of our communities.
Humans work and play throughout their watershed, and depend on water for domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses. In order to protect and sustain our communities, scientists and community leaders have developed a variety of methods for detecting and controlling sources of watershed stress. Best management practices (BMPs) are common water quality protection measures used in forestry, farming, construction, and land alteration activities to safeguard the quality of our water. Together, community leaders and citizens in the Flathead Watershed continually work to create innovative solutions that enable us to provide our communities with dependable supplies of clean water while protecting the health and economic viability of our watershed.

Figure 1.1: A Watershed. Source: Lori Curtis

But a watershed is much more than a unit of land or a hydrologist’s term. It is a mosaic of landscapes with natural and human history, culture, and the variety of land uses of a place. It is a web of natural resources including water, air, soil, plants, animals, and people. The water that runs through our watershed is utilized by everyone and everything that lives here. Watersheds cross country, state, county, and city boundaries defining an area by its natural features as opposed to political elements.


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