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   What is a watershed?

A watershed is a region, or drainage basin, that drains into a common water body such as a river, lake, ocean or estuary. Put simply, a watershed can be thought of as an area of land that sheds water into a water body. The water moves through a network of drainage pathways, both underground and on the surface (streams), that converge into progressively larger bodies of water as the water moves on downstream, eventually reaching the ocean. There can be many small watersheds within a single large watershed. Every stream, tributary, or river has an associated watershed, and small watersheds join to become larger watersheds. For example, the continental divide in the US along the Rocky Mountains forms the watershed division between eastward-flowing and westward-flowing streams, which drain into the Pacific Ocean. Within the westward-flowing watershed, there are hundreds of smaller watersheds, including the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River watersheds.


   What is a watershed approach?

A watershed approach provides a coordinating framework for management that joins public and private sector efforts to address the highest priority water and land-related problems within hydrologically-defined geographic areas called watersheds. Four main features are typical of the Watershed Approach: 1. Identifying and prioritizing water and land problems in the watershed, 2. Increased public involvement, 3. Coordinating activities with other agencies, organizations, and individuals, and 4. Measuring changes and advocating improvement through increased and more efficient monitoring and other data gathering. A watershed approach considers the effect of landscape-level changes on the watershed and seeks to incorporate multiple benefits in projects, including improvements in water quality, water supply, recreation, and habitat. A watershed approach also seeks to integrate projects and approaches across different agencies, organizations, and jurisdictional boundaries within a watershed.

   Who is responsible for maintaining the watersheds?

The answer depends on your specific question as there are many agencies with different responsibilities. For example, the LA County Department of Public Works/Flood Control District and the US Army Corps of Engineers have primary responsibility for river channel maintenance. Water quality in the rivers is the responsibility of those agencies and businesses that have permits to discharge treated effluent. All cities and the County have responsibilities to control storm water discharges, which harm the water quality. Many different city, state, and federal agencies manage parks, open spaces, and the forest. Of course, individual behavior is extremely important as well. By taking personal responsibility for your actions, you can help maintain a cleaner, healthier watershed though responsible stewardship.

   How can I get involved?

Many regional organizations and agencies offer tips for making a positive difference in your watershed. Check out their websites to learn what you can do to contribute to a healthier watershed. There are several organizations working in the watershed that are actively seeking volunteers, interns and donations. Please see our Watershed Organizations & Agencies page for more information about these agencies and organizations.

   Where does my water come from?

If you pay a water bill, your water company is required to send you an annual report that describes water quality conditions and where your water comes from. If your water company has a website, this report should also be available there. It might be called "Consumer Confidence Report on Water Quality." Read the section on water supply. Another source of this information is the Water Education Foundation. Select your city on the map.

   What is my Ecological Footprint?

How much land area does it take to support your lifestyle? Find out by taking the Ecological Footprint quiz.

   What is my Water Footprint?

People use lots of water for drinking, cooking and washing, but even more for producing things such as food, paper, cotton clothes, etc. The water footprint looks at the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services you consumed. Find out your individual water footprint and your country's water footprint at www.waterfootprint.org.

   What is my Carbon Footprint?

How big is your carbon footprint? Find out and discover ways to reduce it at www.carbonfootprint.com.
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