What is a Watershed?

Image of a watershed as a network of streams and riversWe think of watersheds as intricate networks of rivers, streams, and creeks that converge towards a single point. Thinking about my research and the ecological relationships that make up a watershed, I’ve come to realize that this image doesn’t really tell the whole story.

It’s better to think of a watershed as an inundation – a flow of water through the landscape rather than across it. Instead of a network, it’s better to think of molecular condensations percolating through the soil, coalescing gradually to form into the rivers and streams we usually think of when we imagine a watershed. The mud in your back yard is as much a part of the watershed as is the creek that runs through the woods or the river that cuts through town.

Now, thinking metaphorically, I wonder how it would change our framing of social relationships to think in terms of these molecular condensations. How would our lives be different if we considered ourselves part of the mud rather than nodes in a network of relations?

It’s just a thought – something I might explore more later…

4 thoughts on “What is a Watershed?”

  1. through not just over is how engineers have long thought of them, social life doesn’t have the same sorts of regularities of properties but anything that would do away with talk of ideologies and the like spreading over (running thru) populations would be welcome.

    1. That’s really not true of engineers, at least the ones I know, and the models they build reflect that. They still function as pipes and catchments – flow over rather than flow through. And they’re only beginning to figure out how to deal with the smaller percolations through soil, etc.

        1. I’m just saying that the pipe and catchment model is still the dominant way of thinking about hydrology. If they’re learning about it (and I’ve not doubt they are), it’s only just making its way into practical application in terms of pollution management. Also, when you look at images of watersheds in scientific reports, etc. like the one on the post, you always see a network of streams and rivers, not the kind of inundation that I’m talking about. I’ve spent the last several years talking to hydrologists, engineers, water and soil scientists, etc, and wrote a dissertation on it, so I do have some idea of what I’m talking about…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *