Watershed Health: Everyone Lives in a Watershed
Imagine our landscape as a quilt with irregular pieces, each of which is a distinct watershed or drainage basin with a unique topography. The size and shape of each piece or watershed is determined by the height of the land and the way the land slopes which impacts the direction that rain and snowmelt travel. Each distinct watershed includes all of the land that collects water into a common waterbody such as a creek, pond, or lake. The highest points of land, such as the Oak Ridges Moraine, form the divide between two or more watersheds.
You can think of watersheds on a small scale like the Oshawa Creek Watershed which includes all the land that drains water into the Oshawa Creek, though it is important to realize that watersheds are also nested inside each other. For example the Oshawa Creek Watershed is a small part of the Lake Ontario Watershed which is also a part of the Great Lakes Watershed, and in turn a part of the Atlantic Ocean Watershed.
Central Lake Ontario Conservation’s jurisdiction includes the watershed boundaries of twenty two (22) creeks that drain from the Oak Ridges Moraine in the north to Lake Ontario. This area is 639 square km, and includes (4) major watersheds and eighteen (18) smaller watersheds, as shown in this map.
Central Lake Ontario Conservation owns just over 2700 hectares of land across its jurisdiction. Conservation lands are primarily located within one of the three major physiographic zones of high ecological significance, including the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Lake Iroquois Beach and the Lake Ontario Shoreline.
The boundaries of Central Lake Ontario Conservation’s jurisdiction are based on watersheds because conservation makes ecological sense on a watershed scale. Water moves, so what happens on the land within a watershed is eventually mirrored in the health of the water. The rain or snow that falls on roofs, patios, lawns, roads, agricultural fields, forests, etc, makes it way toward a nearby creek or pond and eventually to Lake Ontario, our source for drinking water. We live within a watershed and what we do on the land, and how we treat our forests, valleys, creeks and wetlands matters because it impacts the quality of the water we drink and the quality of the wildlife and aquatic habitat that sustains our healthy watersheds. As part of a watershed community, we have the opportunity and responsibility to recognize and manage our impacts. Healthy watersheds sustain healthier people.