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What is a watershed?

Physically, a watershed is an area within which any drop of rain that falls will end up in a single river, lake, or ocean. But it is more than that. A watershed encompasses everything that can happen to that drop of water along its way. The watershed links together plants, animals, people, businesses, and anything else that uses water. It is affected by geography, ecology, economy, society, politics, and culture. Throughout the country, people are looking for ways to maximize benefits and minimize costs associated with managing streams through a process called watershed management.

Watershed management means looking at all of the great things streams can do, such as supply drinking water, provide opportunities for recreation, and sustain habitat for wildlife. It also means considering the problems created by the relationship between society and water, including limited supply, flooding, and pollution. In conducting watershed management, organizations must cross boundaries. Watershed management planning is being undertaken by most local government agencies to balance these issues.

Science for Restoring the Los Angeles River

The 51 mile long Los Angeles River begins in the San Gabriel and Santa Monica Mountains and flows through a national forest, a national monument, and a national park, at least two state parks, as well as 14 cities and the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. The watershed includes 88 cities, but the longest section, 31 miles of the river, flows through some of the densest urban areas in the City of Los Angeles. Large scale plans for restoration and reconnection are beginning to be implemented by a series of local, state, and federal programs. Read more about our research on the LA River. 

Watershed Education

Watershed U. is a program designed to train people from local government, non-profit and citizen groups, and business to work together and play effective roles in watershed management and to become stewards of their streams. Watershed U. enables groups to jointly develop goals by giving them a background to understand each others' points of view and develop a common knowledge base and language to move forward. 

For many Californians, English is not their first language. Folks who are developing basic fluency may also be new to their local watershed, and their interactions with them may differ from what was familiar in their country of origin. Developed through collaboration with ELA educators, our Water Curriculum can help people learn English and how to care for their watersheds at the same time.