What Is a Watershed?

A watershed, simply put, is a geographic area where all water draining from it goes to the same place. Divides between watersheds are usually ridgelines (think as big as the Continental Divide, down to small hills and their valleys) that direct runoff into lower areas where tributaries, streams, and rivers call home. How we have treated and viewed surface water resources has changed over time, but the notable 19th century geographer/explorer John Wesley Powell may have said it best by defining a watershed as:

“…that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.”

Watershed Geography

Similar to how a person can describe where they live as broadly as their country of residence or as specifically as their street and house number, watersheds can be viewed on a large or a small scale. Water making its way to Doe Run from a small tributary will most likely head to the Chiques Creek, further down to the Susquehanna River, and ultimately to the Chesapeake Bay.

Improving water quality in your backyard plays an essential role in efforts made to larger waterways affecting larger numbers of people, businesses, and forms of life. Take for instance the map on the left, which demonstrates just how big the Chesapeake Bay watershed is. Imagine how many people’s “backyards” there are in this vast area!

Watersheds and Stormwater Management

What makes understanding the watershed concept so important is the connection between stormwater drainage, pollutants, and the health of our waterways. More information on that can be found in the Stormwater Management pages.

Local Watershed Organizations

We are proud to have four active watershed organizations in our community, each of which is dedicated to improving water quality within their respective areas. They are all member-driven, and there is always a need for more involvement…whether making donations or lending a hand during stream cleanups or other activities.

Lancaster County Watersheds

Chiques Creek Watershed Alliance

Chiques Creek Restoration Initiative – Susquehanna River Basin Commission

Chiques Creek Watershed Action Plan

Lower Susquehanna Initiative – Penn State University Agriculture and Environment Center

Lititz Run Watershed Alliance

Little Conestoga Watershed Alliance