A watershed is an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet such as the outflow of a reservoir, mouth of a bay, or any point along a stream channel. The word watershed is sometimes used interchangeably with drainage basin or catchment. Ridges and hills that separate two watersheds are called the drainage divide. The watershed consists of surface water–lakes, streams, guts, reservoirs, and wetlands–and all the underlying ground water. Larger watersheds contain many smaller watersheds. It all depends on the outflow point; all the land that drains water to the outflow point is the watershed for that outflow location. Watersheds are important because the streamflow and the water quality in the area are affected by things, human-induced or not, happening in the land area “above” the outflow point.
Watersheds hold key purpose to helping sustain life on our planet. Watersheds provide homes and nutrients for wildlife. Our society uses it for farming, manufacturing, transportation and helps to generate power. Our watersheds also help in the regulating of our earth’s temperature.
The benefits and services provided by healthy watersheds are numerous and include reduced vulnerability to invasive species, climate change and future land use changes. Healthy watersheds with natural land cover and soil resources also provide vast carbon storage capabilities, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. They provide habitats for many animal species, preserve recreation opportunities (i.e. fishing, boating, swimming) and contribute to tourism (hiking, birding etc.). Watersheds are a primary contribution to the quality of our everyday lives. Therefore we must all work together to keep our watersheds healthy!
Located in northeastern St. Thomas, the Smith Bay watershed is approximately 1.4 sq. miles and is divided into three main sub-watersheds, each draining to Water Bay, Sugar Bay, and Lindquist Beach/Smith Bay. The Smith Bay watershed offers a unique opportunity to compare hydrologic conditions and watershed health between Water Bay and Lindquist Beach sub-watersheds, which represent a heavily urbanized and a relatively undeveloped drainage area, respectively.
Starting in 2015 a two year watershed assessment of the Smith Bay Watershed was conducted as a collaborative effort between the Virgin Islands Conservation Society (VICS), Blue Flag—USVI, the Horsley Witten Group (HW), and the VI Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), with guidance and input from the Smith Bay Community Action Foundation and funded by DPNR-DEP through a US EPA 319 grant. Coral World Ocean Park was the sole sponsor of matching funds to support community outreach educational activities associated with this effort.
The goals of this project were to inform the public on the causes of the stormwater and non-point source pollution problems they are witnessing in their watershed, offer suggestions for alleviating those issues, and improving overall watershed awareness through education and outreach. Ultimately, it is the intent of this watershed assessment and planning process to better position the community to advance implementation of priority restoration actions.
Top 10 Ways to Improve your Watershed: