The Watershed Connection

What is a Watershed?

A watershed is all the land connected by the fresh water flowing through it. Everybody lives in a watershed and everything we do takes place in a watershed. In Sacramento we live in the Sacramento River Watershed, the largest watershed in California.

Northern California storms produce precipitation either in the form of rain or snow. The rain runs off the land in the Sacramento River Watershed. This is called runoff. The earth’s gravity pulls all runoff downhill into a branching network of streams or tributaries. Streams come in all sizes from small creeks to big rushing rivers. Each stream connects to a larger one until it reaches the biggest stream in the watershed. The Sacramento River is the biggest stream in the Sacramento River Watershed. It carries the runoff from the entire watershed toward the Pacific Ocean.

photos__piechart.gifLess than one percent of the earth’s water is freshwater; the rest is saltwater, ice caps, or glaciers. Only a small portion of the freshwater is available for use by people. Streams provide freshwater for many people in California. We could not survive without them or the clean, fresh water they collect from our watershed. When we take care to keep our streams clean and healthy, we are actually taking care of ourselves and every other living thing in the watershed. Clean water supports many more species (forms of life) than polluted water.

In a watershed, everyone is someone’s downstream neighbor. People upstream of Sacramento send us their used water. Then we turn around and send our used water to people living downstream of us. Since we all share the same water, it’s everyone’s job to keep it clean. The quality of water depends on us.


Sacramento River Watershed Map