No matter where you are, in a rural or urban area, you are in a watershed. Often, we know which city, county and state we live in, but not which watershed! A watershed is an area of land where all the water from rain and snow drains downward to a single body of water, such as a stream, river, lake, or wetland. A healthy watershed has the right combination of plants, water and soil to protect groundwater and can provide us with water for drinking, washing, agriculture, industry, and recreation. If a watershed is damaged—for example by deforestation, dumping of industrial and agricultural waste, or building large dams—everyone’s health is affected.
Chapter 9 of A Community Guide to Environmental Health – published by Hesperian in 2008 and now available in Spanish – provides a wealth of information about why it is important to protect our watersheds and how this can be done. It includes clear explanations and illustrations, activities, and stories about people who have organized to protect their watersheds and their health in the Aguan river valley of Honduras, among the Yaqui people in Northern Mexico, and in the Yukon territory in Alaska. Take a look at this unique resource that is being used by health workers, teachers, activists, development professionals and others around the world working to improve the health of people and the environment.
Curious about your watershed? If you live in the US, you can find your watershed at the website of the Environmental Protection Agency by entering your zip code.