Resource Center, Watersheds | South Jersey Land & Water Trust
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What’s A Watershed?

  • A watershed is the total area of land that drains to a particular stream, river or lake;
  • Each watershed is separated from other watersheds by high points in the terrain, such as hills and ridges that forms its boundaries, not necessarily the boundaries of townships, municipalities or counties;
  • A watershed includes not only the water body or waterway itself, but also the entire land area that drains into it, including uplands covered by farms, forests, homes and businesses that may be some distance from the water. A watershed may be very small, like the drainage formed by your driveway, or very large, like the drainage basin of the Delaware River;
  • Everything that happens to the land within a watershed, such as rainfall, stormwater drainage and pollution, affects the quality and quantity of the local water, including the drinking supply. Pollutants released anywhere in the watershed may eventually find their way into the water supply;
  • The diversity of plant and animal life in South Jersey, including several endangered and threatened species, depends on a healthy watershed. People who enjoy swimming, boating, fishing and hiking also depend on healthy watersheds;
  • Loss of wetlands in a watershed contributes to soil erosion and increases the risk of flooding;
  • Many of South Jersey’s watersheds are still rural or are within reach of farms and green open spaces, but many other watersheds have experienced significant development to the land within them. With more development comes an increase in the demand for groundwater supplies, and an increase in the amount of pressure placed on the watershed and the species that live in it;
  • You can find YOUR watershed and do some research to determine its health.

South Jersey Land and Water Trust watershed.

How to Keep Your Watershed Healthy:

  • Macroinvertebrate AssessmentsSJLWT and the Americorps Watershed Ambassadors offer macroinvertebrate assessment training, which allows volunteers the opportunity to test the health levels of their watersheds by noticing the presence or absence of certain pollution-intolerant macroinvertebrates.
  • Minimize paved or “impervious” surfaces– when rain falls on a paved surface, the water cannot soak into the ground, and it creates run-off. As the stormwater run-off creates puddles on the road, it picks up any oil, dirt, grease and other pollutants and carries them with it as it enters stormwater drains. These drains ultimately wind up at the local wastewater treatment plant, which can easily become overwhelmed by large levels of wastewater.
  • Plant a Rain Garden– Rain Gardens typically consist of native, drought-tolerant plants, which require less water than other plants. They are typically constructed in a depression or low-lying area, often at the supply-end of a rain gutter or downspout to capture rainwater. This allows the water to percolate through the soil into the groundwater in a natural filtration process to “recharge” an underground aquifer.
  • Reduce chemical use– The fewer chemicals that are used in agriculture, lawn care, gardening, and on home exteriors, the fewer chemical pollutants end up in the stormwater drainage after a heavy rain. Even the gasoline from a lawnmower will wind up in the watershed after a rainstorm!
  • Pick up after your animals– If you take your dog for walks, be sure to pick up its waste. Even a light rain could wash the waste into the water system, including any parasites or bugs that could be living in there. It’s always a smart idea to pick up, bag, and throw away your animals’ waste.
  • Conduct a Community Cleanup– Choose an area to monitor within your watershed, and make sure that it is free of trash and debris that could harm the watershed. This would be a great ongoing project for a school club, volunteer group, or Scout troop or other extracurricular club. Check in your local area about adopting a road way or stream bank, and be sure to always wear brightly-colored clothing when picking up trash as a safety precaution!
  • Properly dispose of “tech waste”– Some items are more difficult to recycle or dispose of than others, which can lead to them being dumped or improperly disposed of. This includes “tech waste”, or outdated TVs, DVD players, computers, gaming systems, etc. Contact your municipality to find out the best way to dispose of these items, and make sure that your family’s outdated tech items don’t leach harmful chemicals into your watershed.

If you are interested in becoming a macroinvertebrate assessment volunteer, constructing a rain garden, or conducting a Community Cleanup in your area, please call SJLWT’s office at 856-881-2269


South Jersey Land and Water Trust Startford Academy visits a watershed.

Teacher’s Guides

The South Jersey Land & Water Trust in partnership with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), has published two resource guides for area teachers. These guides to the Watersheds of Camden and Gloucester Counties will introduce students to the natural and cultural resources of their county, helping to instill in them a sense of place and stewardship for their environment. Learning about these resources will help students see the role we all play in our watersheds, develop their concern for the local environment, and take action to protect it.

Although designed for teachers, the Guides are useful references for anyone interested in water resources and environmental issues in Camden and Gloucester Counties.

Both resource guides provide the following information:

  • Definitions of a watershed and the water cycle;
  • Location of the watersheds that are wholly or partly in the County with maps and descriptions of each;
  • Summaries of the natural and human history of the County;
  • A description of drinking water sources in the County;
  • Threats to the watersheds and to drinking water;
  • What you can do to protect water quality and quantity;
  • Resources for teachers (community groups contacts, websites, activity guides, print resources, and watershed field trip destinations);
  • Glossary;
  • Appendices consisting of activities and lessons that teachers can utilize in the classroom;

A Teacher’s Guide to the Watersheds of Camden County
Published for the Environmental Commission of Camden County, July 2003


All Camden County teachers may obtain a free printed copy by contacting the Camden County Division of Environmental Affairs at 856-858-5241 or (while copies last.)

A Teacher’s Guide to the Watersheds of Gloucester County

Published for Rowan University and the Federation of Gloucester County Watersheds, September 2004


All Gloucester County teachers may obtain a free printed copy by contacting the South Jersey Land and Water Trust at 856-881-2269 or (while supplies last).

South Jersey Land & Water Trust
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