What's a Watershed?


The word "watershed" sounds as if it might describe a small building where water is stored. After all, a toolshed is a small building where tools are stored, isn't it? Though the name is potentially confusing, the watersheds that you'll explore in this activity are not buildings at all.

Another name for watershed is drainage basin and another name for basin is sink. A sink can serve as a highly simplified model of a watershed: water that falls anywhere within a sink will move downhill to its drain. Similarly, rain or snow that falls anywhere within a watershed will move downhill to a single place that drains the whole watershed, usually a river.

In this activity, you'll build a physical model of a watershed. Once you've worked with the physical model, you'll use Google Earth to explore the watershed in which you live.

Keeping Track of What You Learn

In these pages, you'll find two kinds of questions.
  • Checking In questions are intended to keep you focused on key concepts. They allow you to check if the material is making sense. These questions are often accompanied by hints or answers to let you know if you are on the right track.
  • Stop and Think questions are intended to help your teacher assess your understanding of the key concepts and skills. These questions require you to pull some concepts together or apply your knowledge in a new situation.
Your teacher will let you know which questions you should answer and turn in.