What is a WATERSHED
Updated: Mar 20
Waupaca Chain O’Lakes POST
A BLOG focused on Education, Conservation and Restorative Stewardship
keeping our Land and Water Healthy for Future Generations
Julie Mazzoleni -Stewardship and Resources Committee
What is a WATERSHED?
Watershed is surface water (rain or snowmelt) and ground water that eventually flows into our lakes and streams. Everyone lives on a watershed; Waupaca area is the upper Fox, lower Wolf River watershed.
All water eventually flows into our lakes and streams and to a common outlet. That’s why it critical to maintain a healthy watershed.
When surface water soaks into the ground, it filters out pollutants such as chemicals, oil, fertilizers, and other pollutants. It’s nature’s way of keeping our lakes and waterways clean and healthy. When surface water can no longer soak into the ground, it runs directly into our lakes and streams without being filtered. THIS is the number one pollutant of our water in America.
Whether we live directly on the lakes or off, everything we do can be impactful. What we do, no matter how small or how big, matters to the health of our Chain O’Lakes. A collective change can make a big difference.
6 easy ways you can make an impact today….
1. Be aware of runoff from gutters and paved areas. Add a raingarden, gutter diverters or use a rain barrel to collect water to use later in your garden or lawn.
2. Plant a riparian zone – Native plants, planted along the lakeshore will buffer and protect the lake from runoff. Besides added shoreline beauty, there is little to no maintenance and natives create valuable wildlife habitats to enjoy. This also guards against GEESE. Geese love open areas that allow them to see potential predators. Native plants along the shoreline obstruct their view so will look other suitable habitat.
3. Pick up your dog waste. Dog waste that washes into the lakes and streams cause bacterial problems in our waterways.
4. Reduce or remove impermeable pavement and replace it with permeable, so water can soak into the ground.
5. Minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides – run off from fertilizers into lakes and streams is the cause of algae growth. One pound of phosphorus produces 500 pounds of algae.
6. Reduce turf and add NATIVES. Native plants have deep roots which hold the soil and allow water to filter deep into the ground. And as mentioned, they are easy to maintain and promote and encourage a wide variety of wildlife to yards such as birds, native bees, butterflies, bats, turtles, frogs and much, much more.
This illustration "Root Systems of Prairie Plants" by Heidi Natura was published by Conservation Research Institute in 1995 and continues to be heavily used to illustrate the depth and network of roots associated with various native plants and grasses. For a larger view, click the link below and zoom in. Note that this illustration also includes the root system of TURF grass on the far left.
I had the opportunity to connect with Taylor Hasz, Waupaca County Land and Water Conservation Department.
Taylor is on the front line of Waupaca County watershed resources and restoration. Below is what she shared with me regarding Waupaca area watershed.
Taylor Hasz – Watershed Technician, Waupaca County
Land and Water Conservation
“Looking back throughout history, water pollution and degradation was on people’s radar well before 1972, which led to the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into waters of the US and regulating quality standards for surface waters.
Without question, many state and federal programs affecting the quality of lakes and streams have made major strides in decreasing point sources like wastewater and reducing agricultural and urban nonpoint pollution. We have a long way to go in continuing to improve conditions, but efforts are evident. Unfortunately, politics has hindered conservation efforts throughout time.
Education and outreach has been a huge contributor to improving water quality conditions.
Surveys have shown that we all want clean water, and we are all willing to pay to protect it. It really takes a whole watershed or community to come together to improve water quality conditions and the only way to do this is through partnerships between municipalities, county land and water conservation departments, farmers, lake groups/watershed groups, state and federal agencies. With all these partners working together, education and outreach can be provided, and then planning and practices can be implemented to reduce nutrients.
I really do think more people are becoming aware of issues related to land use and water quality.
Every year throughout Wisconsin, we have more producer-led watershed groups pop up addressing agricultural pollution and soil health by promoting adoption of conservation practices at a watershed scale. These groups formed because farmers see the issues revolving around soil and water quality degradation and want to be part of the solution not the problem any longer. These groups partner with local and state governments for technical assistance but really the farmers are doing all the work in these groups and want to do better for the environment. For more information on producer-led watershed groups see the link below. The Farmers for Tomorrow River Watershed Council is the closest group and they cover the Tomorrow River/Waupaca River watershed which includes the Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes.
Another example of awareness is the formation of Lake Associations.
The main reason Lake Associations form is to maintain, protect, and improve the quality of a lake, its fisheries, and its watershed. They are the best way to bring awareness to shoreline owners about what is happening around the lakes and what they can do to improve conditions. Just like the producer-led watershed groups, lake associations work well because waterfront owners are communicating with other waterfront owners to address concerns and solutions. Every year we seem to get more waterfront owners interested in Healthy Lakes projects (rain gardens, native plantings, fish sticks, diversions, rock infiltrations) which is a step in the right direction at improving their shoreline. All of these practices help improve habitat and water quality of lakes and rivers. The more of these types of practices that get implemented, the more participation we will likely have simply because others are implementing them.
Educating shoreline owners about how they might be contributing to water quality degradation and ways they can remedy concerns is critical.
Aquatic invasive species is also a major concern for lakes and rivers. Training and educating citizens on ways to identify and reduce the spread of invasives is vital in preventing further spreading which is the whole reason Clean Boats, Clean Waters was created. Invasive species can be extremely detrimental to the overall health of a waterbody”
Additional resources :
How Nature Makes Clean Water
Controlling Runoff and Erosion From your Waterfront Property - a Guide for Landowners
Shoreline Property: A Guide to Environmentally Sound Ownership
Deep roots of native plants graphic
Illustration "Root Systems of Prairie Plants" by Heidi Natura and published by Conservation Research Institute in 1995 is an essential graphic in understanding the depth and network of roots associated with different grasses including grass used in our yards today.
Waupaca Chain O'lakes Association
Stewardship and Resources Committee