A watershed is an area of land that water flows over or through on its way to a stream, lake or river. Within each different watershed, the land “sheds” or gets rid of water into a common body of water. A watershed also includes the people, air, plants and animals that call that land “home.” Residents of the Des Moines metro area live in both the Des Moines River and Raccoon River watersheds, which begin about 200 miles north and west of the city. These rivers serve as the primary sources for our drinking water.
Precipitation, run off, agriculture tile drainage or any other water from farmland and urban areas between the Minnesota border area and Des Moines will eventually end up in one of these two rivers. When it rains or snows, water carries pollutants such as dirt, oil and fertilizers to our rivers and lakes. Controlling pollution is key to improving the quality of our water supply.
There are two types of watershed pollution: point-source and nonpoint-source. Point-source pollution is an easily identifiable source, like wastewater treatment plant or industrial discharge. Nonpoint sources of pollution are difficult to identify, isolate and control. Examples of non-point source pollution include run off from parking lots, run off and tile drainage discharge from agricultural fields, feedlots, lawns and failing septic systems.
Everyone, from farmers to urban residents, can contribute to improving watershed health. Even the smallest contribution can make a significant impact in preserving and protecting our water.
You can keep our watersheds clean and safe by following these healthy, environmental tips. These can be practiced at home, work and community, to enjoy and maintain a healthy living environment!
- Don’t dump! Do not dump hazardous household chemicals, such as fertilizers, oil-based paint or antifreeze down a drain in your home or a storm sewer in your neighborhood. Take these chemicals to the Metro Waste Authority’s Regional Collection Center in Bondurant for disposal. Call (515) 967-5512 for more information. Yearly neighborhood SCRUB days also offer limited hazardous chemical disposal.
- Recycle! Recycle your newspapers, magazines, milk jugs, water bottles, juice bottles, metal cans, clear glass, and anything else possible to reduce the quantity of garbage you send to the landfill.
- Love nature! Plant grass, trees and shrubs, especially native species to prevent soil from eroding.
- Drive smart! Keep your vehicles in good condition to prevent oil and antifreeze leaks from entering storm sewers.
- Don’t litter! Pick up after yourself and your pets. You can also volunteer to help clean up area parks.