Center for Science and Environmental Outreach
Science and Environmental Education

Why You Should
Care About Watersheds...


The natural landscape is divided into watersheds (river or lake basins) that cross township, county, and state political boundaries. Management of natural resources, such as drinking water, at the watershed level is becoming more common, requiring cooperation among public and private landowners and local governments. The following text and maps provide an introduction to the benefits of watershed protection.

Wherever You Go--You're in a Watershed!

Every drop (or flake!) of precipitation that falls to the Earth is on its way somewhere else. Some evaporates or is taken up by plants. Some seeps through the soil to become groundwater that resurfaces some distance away through springs, seeps, or wells. Some runs off the land surface to lakes or rivers. A watershed includes all the land area that drains to a particular lake or river.

Map 1  Watersheds of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (189 K)

Scratching the Surface of Drinking Water Quality

The Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw County area is part of seven watersheds, all of which drain to the larger Lake Superior or Lake Michigan watersheds. Even through most of us drink groundwater from private or community wells (except Baraga, L'Anse, and Gay residents, whose drinking water comes from Keweenaw Bay), the quality of our drinking water depends on how well we take care of our watersheds. How we use the land is important.

Map 2 Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw County Watersheds (289 K)

Piecing Together the Watershed Protection Puzzle

What you do, or don't do, on your land has long-term consequences. Your private property rights are balanced by responsibilities. Learn to be a good steward of your land. You will benefit, and so will current and future generations of residents that share your watershed. Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, individual parcels of land--properly managed--join together to keep our watersheds healthy.

Map 3 Otter/Sturgeon River Watershed (415 K)

Benefits of Watershed Protection

  • Protecting drinking water quality
  • Maintaining property values
  • Preventing erosion and sedimentation problems
  • Sustaining valuable resources, such as timber and crop lands
  • Preserving quality wildlife habitat--upland, wetland, and aquatic
  • Providing places to "get away from it all" (recreation/tourism)

For more information about watersheds and non-point source pollution, see the following sites:

U.S. EPA Surf Your Watershed 
U.S. EPA Watershed Protection
U.S. EPA Nonpoint Source Pollution
CTIC Know Your Watershed
Center for Watershed Protection
Trust for Public Land Watershed Protection
River Network 


Center for Science and Environmental Outreach
Joan Chadde,
K-12 Education & Outreach Program Coordinator

Center for Science & Environmental Education
Michigan Technological University
115 Great Lakes Research Center
1400 Townsend Dr., Houghton, MI 49931-1295
Tel: (906) 487-3341 Fax: (906) 487-1029

Contact the Center

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January 8, 2009

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