What is a watershed?
A watershed is simply an area of land that drains to a central body of water. The rainwater that falls within the watershed is funneled to a body of water based on the shape and elevation of the land.
It doesn’t matter where you live, everyone lives in a watershed. Each watershed’s residents, businesses and industries are responsible for the health of the watershed’s water resources. The community must consider its actions and resulting impacts on water resources because “we all live downstream.”
Here’s our watershed, the Lower Des Plaines River watershed:
Our watershed boundary does not take a traditional form due to the lack of tributaries in the northern area in Cook County.
Active subwatershed groups within the watershed boundary include the Hickory Creek Watershed Planning Group and the Silver Creek Watershed Committee.
The Upper and Lower Des Plaines River Ecosystem Partnerships were organized in 1996 under the Illinois DNR Ecosystems Program of Conservation 2000, a multi-year initiative to preserve and restore Illinois ecosystems. While the partnerships are no longer active, resources from their activities can be found here:
- Lower Des Plaines Ecosystem Partnership Watershed Plan
- Strategic Sub-Watershed Identification Process Draft (SSIP)
- Upper Des Plaines Ecosystem Partnership – Watershed Restoration Action Strategy for the Upper Des Plaines River
Healthy Watershed = Healthy Rivers = Clean Water
What we do on the land affects the health of our waterways. This is primarily due to stormwater runoff, rainwater that hits the ground and instead of seeping into the ground, flows over it–bringing pesticides, fertilizer, road salt, and whatever else is on the ground into our waterways. The fertilizer we put on our lawns in the summer and the salt we put on the roads in the winter can all end up in our local streams and rivers.
Different kind of land use affects what stormwater runoff brings into our rivers. For instance, pesticides and fertilizers will be a bigger concern for waterways near agriculture. Open spaces can protect waterways by allowing rainfall to sink into the ground where it lands, instead of running off.