What is a watershed?
A watershed is simply the geographic area through which water flows across the land and drains into a common body of
water, whether a stream, river, lake, or ocean. The watershed boundary will more or less follow the highest
ridgeline around the stream channels and meet at the bottom or lowest point of the land where water flows out of the
watershed, the mouth of the waterway.
Much of the water comes from rainfall and stormwater runoff. The quality and quantity of stormwater is affected by
all the alterations to the land--mining, agriculture, roadways, urban development, and the activities of people
within a watershed. Watersheds are usually separated from other watersheds by naturally elevated areas.
Why are watersheds important?
Watersheds are important because the surface water features and stormwater runoff within a watershed ultimately drain
to other bodies of water. It is essential to consider these downstream impacts when developing and implementing
water quality protection and restoration actions. Everything upstream ends up downstream. We need to remember that
we all live downstream and that our everyday activities can affect downstream waters.
Management of the environment has been primarily focussed on specific issues such as air, land, and water. Most
efforts have resulted in decreasing pollutant emissions to air and water, improved landfills, remediation of waste
sites and contaminated groundwater, protection of rare and endangered species, design of best management practices
to control water and contaminant runoff, and much more.
What is still a continuing problem for our waters are nonpoint source pollution and habitat degradation. These are
the problems that are responsible for most of the water quality use impairments throughout. These are typically
complex problems that are difficult to manage. Both nonpoint pollution and habitat degradation generally cross
program purviews. To establish a method to tackle these remaining problems managements must come together to better
understand the interactions between the environmental components and the actions that can be taken by all towards
the goal of ecosystem integrity.
West Virginia has over 9,000 streams covering 32,000 stream miles. To better manage the state’s streams, the
State is divided into 32 major hydrologic regions, or watersheds.
- Description: Assessment and reporting of our State's stream water quality is performed by
the Watershed Assessment Branch of the DEP. Teams of biologists and environmental specialists measure water
quality and habitat information on-site; collect waters samples for laboratory analysis; and collect benthic
macroinvertebrate and fish from streams and lakes throughout the state.
- Description: The West Virginia Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report
(IR) fulfills the reporting requirements under the federal Clean Water Act, Section 303(d) to provide a list
of impaired waters and Section 305(b) to provide an overall assessment of West Virginia's waters to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. The term "waters" refers to lakes, wetlands, and streams.
- Total Maximum
- Description: A Total Maximum Daily Load is a plan of action used to clean up streams that
are not meeting water quality standards. The plan includes pollution source identification and strategy
development for contaminant source reduction or elimination.
- Description: In 2004, the West Virginia legislature passed the Water Resources Protection
Act. The purpose of the act was to gather Water Use Logoinformation on the quantity and use of state surface
and groundwater resources.
- Nonpoint Source
- Description: The NPS Program is part of WVDEP's Watershed Improvement Branch (WIB). WIBs
mission is "To inspire and empower people to value and work for clean water."
- Water Quality
- Description: Water Quality Standards (Standards) are the foundation of the water quality
based control program mandated by the Clean Water Act. The Standards form the legal basis for controls on
the amount of pollution entering West Virginia waters from sources such as industrial facilities, wastewater
treatment plants and storm sewers.