|On Watersheds as basins|
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The Long Valley Caldera in the Sierra Nevada Mountain's eastern slope carries snow and rain water down into the Owen's Valley.
Long Valley Caldera, a computer model:
Shown here is the watershed of the upper Owen's River as it flows (upper right to left) south into Crowley Lake, shown in the upper left.
The words of Aldo Leopold can assist anyone in understanding a watershed, such that we learn to think systematically about water and how it shapes our landscapes, their residual vegetation, wildlife, fisheries and settlements. He explained that:
“Hydrologists have demonstrated that the meanderings of a creek are a necessary part of hydrological functioning.
The flood plain belongs to the river."
The ecologist sees clearly that for similar reasons we can get along with less channel improvement on Round River.”
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, pp. 188-202.
Round River as an image of connections we do not see, or feel but can imagine.
“Round River, a river that flowed into itself ...a never ending circuit.”
“In our educational system, the biotic continuum is seldom pictured to us as a stream.... we must learn more and more about the whole biotic landscape.”
“Ecology is destined to become the lore of Round River.”
A watershed drawing.
Watersheds are as complicated as the ecosystems that make them up or as simple as their defining features. The simple definition is that they are drainage basins, representing the basic direction that the runoff of water from the land takes on its journey to a lake, inland sea, an estuary or back into the oceans from which water comes. The defining features of any watershed are its extent in area, the size and flow rate of its derivative rivers and tributaries, their associated floodplain, climate, rainfall and snowfall patterns, slope and exposure to solar radiation.
The Wasatch Mountains drain to the Great Salt Lake on their western flanks.
In the sense of Hippocrates, the ancient Greek writer, watersheds are the confluence of airs, waters and places that were once the province of forces beyond our control that inorganically and organically created forests, wetlands, stream side ecosystems, rivers and plains where life adapted in the form of fisheries, birds, wildlife, or the underlying patterns of vegetation.
Solutions to urgent problems.
David Brower, interpreting the works of J. B. S. Haldane, Ernst Mayr, and Stephen J. Gould understood that the genetic river flowing through us is the molecular history of life on earth.
In the same manner, when one comes into a city to which he is a stranger, he ought to consider its situation, how it lies as to the winds and the rising of the sun; for its influence is not the same whether it lies to the north or the south, to the rising or to the setting sun. These things one ought to consider most attentively, and concerning the waters which the inhabitants use, whether they be marshy and soft, or hard, and running from elevated and rocky situations, and then if saltish and unfit for cooking; and the ground, whether it be naked and deficient in water, or wooded and well watered, and whether it lies in a hollow, confined situation, or is elevated and cold; and the mode in which the inhabitants live, and what are their pursuits, whether they are fond of drinking and eating to excess, and given to indolence, or are fond of exercise and labor, and not given to excess in eating and drinking.
2. From these things he must proceed to investigate everything else. For if one knows all these things well, or at least the greater part of them, he cannot miss knowing, when he comes into a strange city, either the diseases peculiar to the place, or the particular nature of common diseases, so that he will not be in doubt as to the treatment of the diseases, or commit mistakes, as is likely to be the case provided one had not previously considered these matters.
Thales -- water is the original element from which all things descended.
Watersheds are a convenient means of seeing connections among living things and their surroundings in such a way that the linkage of land, air, and water can also be understood functionally as sources of wealth in that water, air, energy and land form the core of the watershed's inorganic conditions that sustain life and civilizations.
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