About Watersheds

What is a Watershed? Jackson Creek

A watershed (also called a river basin) is an area of land where when it rains, all the water drains into one body of water like a lake, river or stream. Everyone lives in a watershed, because when it rains, the water must go somewhere. Watersheds includes homes, businesses, roads, farms, and forests, which all drain into a series of small streams that flow into a creek, river or lake. Many small watersheds make up larger watersheds. The water moves from river to river until it makes its way to the ocean.

Why are Watersheds Important?

When water flows across the ground, it picks up pollutants like bacteria, litter, oil, and chemicals. The water flows into a storm drain or ditch, which empties into the nearest stream or pond without treatment. From there, it enters the main waterbodies of the watershed, bringing any pollution it has picked up along the way. Because the water will travel all the way to the ocean, what happens to the land and water in your watershed not only affects you, but everyone downstream of you until you reach the ocean! Also, you are affected by everything that happens to the watersheds upstream of where you live. That's why we say "We all live downstream!"

What Watershed do You Live In?

There are many watersheds in Richland County. Two have received special interest from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Gills Creek Watershed and the Crane Creek Watershed. While all watersheds in Richland County are impacted by pollution to some degree, these two have pollution problems significant enough to require immediate action by the county. Richland County has developed produced Watershed Management Plans for both watersheds, which are currently being implemented. The Rocky Branch Watershed, located primarily in the City of Columbia, has also received attention lately because of the severe flooding issues it suffers from. Richland County is currently partnering with Kershaw and Fairfield Counties to develop a watershed plan for the Twenty-five Mile Creek Watershed, located in the Northeast portion of Richland County.

If you are not sure what watershed you live in, try this clickable watershed map from SCDHEC.