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Watershed Basics


Frequently found along the edges of streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and coastlines, wetlands are a vital link between land and water. These low-lying areas are generally covered with standing water throughout the year; however, some can be dry part or even most of the year.

Wetlands located around the banks of streams and lakes can remove as much as 80 percent of the phosphorus and 90 percent of the nitrogen from the water moving through them.

In times of heavy rain, wetlands act as nature's sponges, storing surface water, rain, ground water and floodwaters and slowly releasing the water after the rains have stopped. In this way, wetlands lower peak flood levels and protect homes, businesses and crops from major flood damage. Along the margins of lakes, rivers, bays and the ocean, the strong root structure of wetland vegetation protects shorelines and stream banks against erosion. Wetland plants also serve as natural filters, trapping dirt, nutrients and other pollutants that are washed off the land when it rains.

While wetlands are important to the health of the watershed, they are also beneficial to the economy. Wetlands are the breeding ground for approximately 70 percent of commercially caught fish and provide opportunities for millions of Americans to enjoy popular outdoor activities each year, including bird watching, hunting and fishing.

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