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January 11, 2014

Watershed Coordinators: Unique Challenges, Common Goals [Part 1]

The field of watershed management has evolved to serve the needs of some of our most vital ecosystems. Whether a watershed primarily faces the challenge of industrial pollution, habitat destruction, or excessive diversion, a watershed coordinator can develop and lead efforts to keep the local watershed and its ecosystems healthy for years to come.

Illustration by xMidnight-Dream13x (deviantART).

There are many watersheds throughout the US and Canada, and each one faces its own unique challenges. They also relate to the communities and governments around them in different ways, depending on how scarce water resources are in a given region. A watershed coordinator’s job description therefore varies depending on where they are employed, as does the weight of their position. In states like Colorado where water is scarce and agricultural users clash with urban users, a labyrinthine structure of water law has grown up over the centuries to govern the distribution of this precious resource. The job of a watershed coordinator in regions like these is likely to be fraught with political implications, and these watershed coordinators will be expected to work closely with water distribution officials like division engineers and water commissioners.

In states like Ohio, on the other hand, water is so plentiful that disposing of its excess is likely to be more of a challenge than dealing with its shortage. The abundance of water does not make maintaining the health of these regions’ watersheds any less of a challenge, however. Agricultural and industrial production can kick into higher gear when there is access to ample water, and with increased production comes increased pollution. Despite the watershed management challenges faced in regions like Ohio, watershed coordinators do not find themselves as empowered as their dryland counterparts. With an entry-level salary and little authority, watershed coordinators in water-rich regions face the daunting task of organizing their communities and protecting the health of their watersheds.

Ohio Valley Sunset by Tim Lasure.

Whether tasked with protecting a watershed on the dusty high plains or in a rich river valley, watershed coordinators face a number of important challenges in the task of maintaining the health of their watersheds. Although these challenges vary from watershed to watershed, watershed coordinators can meet them by using a universal library of watershed management and community organization tools.

Stay tuned for the second installment of this series, coming up tomorrow!

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Posted by Mark Contorno.

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