What is a Watershed?
A watershed is defined as an area that drains to a common point. That common point may be a lake, an outlet to a river, or any other point within a river system. When rain falls, it travels over the land to the lowest point. Any area that drains water to one location is a watershed. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. They can be as small as a backyard or as large as the land that drains into the Great Lakes.
Unlike the straight lines of city, county and state boundaries, watershed borders are wavy or jagged because they follow terrain features. Watershed boundaries often overlap political boundaries, which can make watershed management difficult.
No matter the size, watersheds are important because they supply us with water for drinking, recreation, industry and agriculture. Lakes, rivers and wetlands provide habitat for countless species of animals, insects and plants.
Changes made to Indiana’s terrain can affect watersheds and the resources they provide. Land development can dramatically affect how rainwater is moved through watersheds. Hard surfaces don’t absorb water, which puts more stress on nearby grassy areas to absorb rainwater. This problem is usually fixed by installing storm water drainage, such as gutters, surface drains, storm sewers and ditches. However, these are not natural solutions and can lead to flooding, damaging water bodies and harming wildlife. (source: IDEM, www.in.gov/IDEM)
The Upper White River Watershed
The Upper White River Watershed encompasses a 2,720 square mile area (1,740,544 acres) within central Indiana. It extends across sixteen (16) counties including significant portions of Hancock, Marion, Hendricks, Johnson, Hamilton, Morgan, Boone, Tipton, Madison, Henry, Delaware, and Randolph Counties, as well as smaller portions of Owen, Monroe, Brown, and Clinton Counties.
The White River itself is 190 miles in length throughout the Upper White River Watershed. Interestingly, there are another 1,616 miles of streams contributing to the White River as its tributaries. This totals 1806 miles of stream in our watershed. Greater than 60% of these streams are impaired and do not meet State water quality standards. However, many streams provide great recreational resources and important water supply for industry and public use.
As a part of the FLOW exhibit, Butler University teamed with Williams Creek Consulting to design a web-based app called “Raindrop”. Using your location, the app will tell you how rain reaches the White River. Click the image to the left for the app, or click here for more info.