An Introduction to Watershed Restoration

An Introduction to Watershed Restoration

In this post, we’ll be exploring the world of watersheds, examining why they’re important and understanding what is involved in watershed restoration. Finally we’ll look at some examples of successful watershed restoration around the world. Let’s dive in!

What are watersheds, and why are they important?

Watersheds are areas of land that drain water to a common body of water, such as a river, lake, or ocean. They provide a variety of important benefits, including clean water, flood control, habitat for fish and wildlife, and opportunities for recreation.

How are watersheds polluted, and how can they be restored?

Watersheds can be damaged by agriculture, forestry, development, and pollution. Watershed restoration is the process of repairing damage done to a watershed and its natural systems. 

Watershed restoration projects can take a variety of forms, but they typically focus on improving water quality, reducing erosion, and restoring wildlife habitat. Some common watershed restoration activities include:

  • Planting trees and other native vegetation
  • Restoring wetlands and floodplains
  • Removing dams and other barriers to fish passage
  • Repairing or decommissioning roads
  • Reducing pollution from agricultural and industrial sources

What are some examples of watershed restoration?

Let’s look at a few examples of watersheds that are being restored and the groups behind them.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Source: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The Chesapeake Bay Program is a regional partnership that directs and conducts the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay in the United States. It was established in 1983 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and six watershed states (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia), as well as the District of Columbia. The Chesapeake Bay Program is funded by a combination of federal, state, and local governments, as well as private foundations and individuals and has an annual budget of approximately $100 million.

The Chesapeake Bay Program works to restore the Bay by reducing pollution from various sources, restoring natural habitat, and educating the public about the importance of watershed restoration. The Chesapeake Bay Program is working to reduce stormwater runoff by installing green infrastructure such as rain gardens and bioswales. 

The group is also restoring wetlands and installing living shorelines, which are made up of native plants and grasses. Both wetlands and living shorelines help to protect the shoreline from erosion, filter pollution, and provide habitat for fish, wildlife, and plants. Other watershed restoration efforts include local farmers planting cover crops to reduce nutrient runoff and erosion. Wastewater treatment plants are also being upgraded to remove more nutrients from wastewater to reduce the amount of pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay. 

The Chesapeake Bay Program has made significant progress in restoring the Bay so far. For example, the program has helped to reduce nitrogen pollution by 25% since 1985. The Chesapeake Bay Program is committed to restoring the Bay to a healthy state by 2025.

Great Barrier Reef Watershed

Source: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

The Australian government launched the Reef 2050 Plan, a long-term plan to protect and restore the Great Barrier Reef. They are working to reduce pollution in the Great Barrier Reef watershed by improving farming practices, upgrading wastewater treatment plants, and reducing stormwater runoff. They are also creating marine parks, managing fishing sustainably, controlling invasive species, educating the public via school programs, community outreach events, and social media.

Other initiatives that are working to restore the Great Barrier Reef watershed include the Reef Trust, a partnership between the Australian government and private donors. The Trust has funded a variety of projects, including reducing pollution, protecting habitat, and restoring degraded reefs. Also, scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) are developing a new technique called larval seeding to restore degraded reefs. The new technique involves releasing corals from healthy reefs to damaged reefs, and growing corals in nurseries and then replanting them on the reef.

Cheonggyecheon River in South Korea

Stepping Stone Bridge across the Cheonggyecheon (Source: LA Creek Freak)

Daylighting the Cheonggyecheon River in South Korea was a massive undertaking that transformed a concrete-lined highway into a vibrant riverfront park. The project removed the highway and restored the river to its natural state. 

The project has been a huge success, and it has revitalized the city center of Seoul. Miles of river were created through the city center, with fountains and paddling areas in the artificial end, and open wildlife space in the more natural downstream end.

The River Thames Restoration Project 

Source: Thames River Trust

The River Thames, which was once one of the most polluted rivers in the world, has been cleaned up in recent decades thanks to significant investment and effort. The River Thames Restoration Project is building on this progress by working to restore the river’s natural ecology.

The project is being led by the Thames River Restoration Trust, a charity that is dedicated to the restoration of the River Thames and its tributaries. The project is also supported by a number of other organizations, including the Environment Agency, Natural England, and the London Boroughs.

The River Thames Restoration Project has already been met with much success. The project has removed over 20 dams and weirs along the river, which has improved fish passage and opened up new habitats. The project has also created over 100 hectares of new wetlands, which help to filter pollution and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Thirsty for more? Check out this post about where NYC’s tap water comes from.

Interested in watershed monitoring and measuring environmental pollutants in your community? Temboo would love to work with you. Please contact us to learn how we can help!