A watershed is an area of land that drains to a lake, river, wetland, or other waterway. When precipitation occurs, water travels over forest, agricultural, or urban/suburban land areas before entering a waterway. Water can also travel into underground aquifers on its way to larger bodies of water. Together, land and water make up a watershed system.

Watersheds can be any size, but generally, the larger the body of water the larger the watershed. For example, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed covers 64,000 square miles and drains from six states, including Virginia. Smaller, local watersheds drain much smaller areas. Even a local stream has a watershed associated with it, perhaps only a few acres in size.

Virginia Watersheds

No matter where you live in Virginia you are part of one the state’s
nine major watersheds. You may have even noticed signs identifying the boundaries of each watershed while traveling through the state.

Virginia’s watersheds ultimately drain into three main bodies of water. Nearly two-thirds of Virginia drains into the Chesapeake Bay. Southeastern and south-central Virginia drain into the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. Rivers in Southwest Virginia flow to the Mississippi River and on to the Gulf of Mexico.

One thing all watersheds have in common is people, and where you have people, you have land-disturbance. When people alter land – to farm, to build, to landscape, for transportation, etc. – they must ensure that
changes don’t cause runoff pollution for other people or plants and animals downstream that depend on clean, usable water.

The technical term for this type of pollution is nonpoint source pollution. There are many ways all of us can prevent such pollution to keep Virginia’s creeks, rivers and bays clean and productive. The programs offered by Henricopolis Soil & Water
Conservation District are intended to help address the problem of nonpoint source pollution.

Click here to read about ways you can protect your watershed (PDF).


Watershed Wednesdays

Using the beautifully illustrated Living In Your watershed by Daniel C. Bowman, students explore the watersheds in Henrico County, VA. Some of the questions answered in this classroom program are:

  • What is your watershed address?
  • What are the sources of pollution in your watershed?
  • What can you do to help?

Students also enjoy our “All the Water In the World” demonstration as well as hands-on experience with our Enviroscape model.

To schedule a Watershed Wednesday program in your classroom, click this link. If you are unable to register online, please call our office at 804-501-5175. /td>