What is a Watershed?
A watershed is a basin-like landform, defined by the surrounding topography, dividing areas that are drained by different river systems.
A watershed encompasses the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it from the land goes into a particular body of water. The water travels through the soil, groundwater, and streams, creating a combined water system. These areas are also sometimes referred to as basins.
Water is a universal solvent, affected by all that it comes in contact with: the land it traverses, and the soils through which it travels. The important thing about watersheds are: what we do on the land affects water quality for all communities living downstream. (Watershed Atlas Network, 2011)
Visit Watershed Atlas to learn more about what a watershed is; how watersheds are formed; how natural systems handle water; and how our society impacts water quality.
Does Everyone live in a Watershed?
Yes. No matter where you live Pennsylvania water running off your property flows towards the closest stream, river, or lake. Now it may be intercepted temporarily by a ditch or pipe but all run-off will eventually reach a nearby stream.
In Pennsylvania we have six dominant watersheds. They are the Ohio, Susquehanna, Delaware, Potomac, Genesee and Erie. Western Pennsylvania is split by the Allegheny Front which is the eastern continental divide that separates our major watersheds from those that flow west to the Mississippi River and then to the Gulf of Mexico and those that flow east to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Blair County is almost completely contained within the Juniata River watershed. The Juniata River Watershed is located in south-central Pennsylvania, encompassing 3,400 square miles and all or parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder and Somerset counties. The watershed is bordered by the West Branch of the Susquehanna on the north, the Susquehanna River on the east, the Potomac River to the south and the Ohio River to the west.
The main stem of the Juniata River forms at the confluence of two major tributaries: the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata and the Little Juniata. The Raystown Branch, the third major tributary to the Juniata River, joins the main stem a few miles downstream of its origins. The Raystown Branch is the largest tributary of the Juniata River at 120 miles long and drains 964 square miles of rough mountainous country. The Frankstown branch is 45 miles long and drains 396 square miles. The Little Juniata is 32 miles long and drains 342 square miles. The main stem of the Juniata River is over 100 miles long and empties into the Susquehanna River near Duncannon, Pennsylvania. Other major tributaries include Aughwick Creek, Kishacoquillas Creek, Standing Stone Creek, and Tuscarora Creek. There are also over 400 named streams that make up the river basin drainage area, for a total of 6,560 total stream miles (DEP, 1989; ERRI, 1998).
For additional information on Pennsylvania’s watersheds visit the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Watershed Notebook. or the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Surf Your Watershed.
Another valuable resource of additional information on the quality of Pennsylvania's streams is United States Geological Survey, Water Resources of Pennsylvania web-site. This page is specifically valuable for real-time stream levels and some water quality data. Three streams gauges are located within Blair County, one in Williamsburg along the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River and one near Tyrone on Bald Eagle Creek and one near Tipton on Tipton Run.
Blair County Volunteer Stream Monitoring Network
In 2011 the District developed the Blair County Volunteer Stream Monitoring Network as a way to collect baseline water quality data on our local streams. This program originated as a Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps (PA SEC) program but has expanded to include concerned citizens of all ages. Most recently as the host of the PA SEC state-wide program the District has partnered with Nature Abounds a non-profit from Clearfield, PA.
The Volunteer Stream Monitoring Network is a group of volunteers interested in protecting Blair County’s high quality water resources. Volunteers are out in the field monthly and collect information on stream flow; water chemistry (such as pH, nitrates, dissolved oxygen, etc.); macroinvertebrates (stream bugs); as well as conduct habitat assessments. The District provides support though program administration, training, and equipment and supplies. Volunteers need to have no professional training and have varied backgrounds from manufacturing, sales, academia to students just starting their careers.
If you would be interested in learning more about the Monitoring Network or in becoming a volunteer please contact the Watershed Specialist for more information or join us at one of our quarterly meetings listed on our Events Calendar.