My Watershed

So my home in Central Valley, NY has watersheds at 4 different levels

1)    My Land Plot (Micro)

2)    My Road (Micro)

3)    Hudson-Wappenger (Meso)

4)    Hudson River (Macro)

Each watershed has its own problems no matter how small.  For example, while on the micro end of a watershed a small stick may divert water a few feet to the left causing erosion which could possibly kill some plant matter and have a devastating effect on the plant life in the immediate area, but on the macro scale of a watershed (the biggest level of observation) that one little stick will not cause any noticeable problems.  Problems on the Macro scale tend to be large pollution problems or major flooding.  In order to look at and determine different watersheds you first need a basic understanding of water literacy.  Water literacy is knowing where your water comes from, and where it goes. The basic idea is simple but if you think about it where exactly does your water come from?

So for my smallest watershed I chose my lad plot.  I thought this was interesting because the land my house lives in sorta pops out with this large, flat, circle which my house resides on.  But all around that my yard is a convex curve of varying degrees.  We have some large problems with my watershed though.  Every fall we run into flooding problems because the way my house was built it is in the middle of the major down slope, with my driveway right above it.  This causes water to come down the hill, rush across the paved driveway and ever so slowly has been eroding away at my porch.  Some other problems are the water is very prone to eroding vast amounts of gravel from our stone driveway.  When there is a large rainstorm, we spend the next few days trying to get all the gravel out of my mom’s gardens, and the front yard.   While at the time it doesn’t seem like a problem, but I can tell you first had that there is nothing more painful that mowing the lawn and having rocks shoot up at you and literally take chunks out of your leg.  Another problem is that we commonly get water on our garage floor because some idiot didn’t level it and it slightly slopes the opposite way of the natural slope.  This causes little ponds of water to form in the dirt, which if not properly swept away causes large mosquito problems, and we believe that the in large is part of the mold problem in my garage.  From my yard all of the water flows downhill towards my road, where the ditches are commonly overflowing and leads to my next watershed.

On a larger macro scale is my road, Summit Ave.  I chose this as my 2nd level of watershed because the way my road is set up, it kind of looks like a valley with the road at the bottom of it.  All of the water from mine, and my neighbor’s water run onto this road, which it’s self goes down the hill until it hits Route 32 (the main road in my town).  At the bottom of the road is the main problem in this level of watershed.  Since there is so much water coming down this hill during a rain event it is extremely prone to flooding.  About twice a year this entrance of the road is closed do to major flooding.  There have been steps made to help eliminate this problem, but they have only progresses as far as putting in larger storm drains at the bottom, which I will admit helps a lot, but when they get clogged up (which the commonly do with sticks and leaves and trash) no one cleans them and we go back to flooding problems.  Another problem on this micro level of view is erosion.  My road is very steep because the way my neighborhood was built, they just kept on building uphill because that was the cheapest and easiest way to build.  Because the hill is so steep the water runs down the drains and the road at a very fast pace, I’ve seen my little neighbor (when she was 10) get swept over after trying to play in the drain.  This rapid pace has eroded away at the ditches and in many places has completely eroded them away.  Where this has happened the water has continued to erode away at the dirt that was covered by asphalt but is now exposed.  And in some places the erosion has gotten so bad that the water has begun to erode pieces out of the road.  From this road all of the water goes into the storm sewers and is piped into a nearby creak which in turn flows into Wappinger Creek, which flows into the Hudson River.

On the meso scale my watershed is the Hudson-Wappenger watershed.  The water in this water shed comes from all over the Hudson Valley.  It includes 6 different counties and includes cities like Newburgh, and West Point Military Academy.  This section of the Hudson River is where there was major damage done to this river, making it part of the 200 miles of polluted water, which in turn makes it the 33rd most polluted river in the United States.  In this part of the watershed there is a large problem with rising levels of nitrate, sulfate, and ammonium.  The rising levels of ammonium are believed to be from low pH levels, which was caused by atmospheric deposition (acid rain).  This has caused fish survival/propagation impairments in one of the larger lakes in the area, Upper Twin Lake.  There are also reports of high phosphorous and cadmium levels in this watershed, and according to the EPA website, it us unknown what the source of these contaminants are. The water from this watershed either flows directly into the Hudson River, on flown in through one of the major tributaries such as Fall Creek.

The Hudson River is the 33rd most polluted river in the country.  The two main culprit’s in this are contaminants such as PCB’s (Polychlorinated buphenyl’s) and DDT (a now banned pesticide). General Electric (GE) manufacturing facilities at Hudson Falls and Fort Edward discharged between 209,000 pounds and 1,300,000 pounds of PCBs into the river between 1947 and 1977. The PCBs caused extensive contamination of fish in the river. PCB’s and DDT can be very harmful to humans, especially pregnant woman. If pregnant woman were to eat contaminated fish from the Hudson River it will greatly increase the likelihood that her child is to be born with birth defects. These contaminants are also known to cause damage to the nervous system, immune system, and the reproductive system. The toxic chemicals also accumulated in sediments that settled to the river bottom; giving the river it’s murky brown appearance.  The Hudson River is also an important source of drinking water for a vast amount of the people in New York.  Working with the Catskill Watershed, the two watersheds deliver 1.4 billion gallons of water a day to the 9 million people living in New York City, Westchester, Orange, and Putnam Counties.  The lower part of the Hudson River is actually a tidal estuary, which according to the Random House Dictionary is, a partially enclosed coastal body of water, having an open connection with the ocean, where freshwater from inland is mixed with saltwater from the sea.  This means that in the winter the ice can flow in both directions causing the harbor part to become extremely difficult to navigate.  The Mahican had a special name for the river, they called it the Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk or “the river that flows both ways.”  From the Hudson River, the water flows directly into the Atlantic River.

 

— The second part of this assignment was the water walk around.  Because I am in Ithaca and have not been able to walk around my home watershed I decided to walk around Ithaca College in the rain, which isn’t to hard because as of lately it seems to always be raining.  One o the first things tat I notices about the water that I don’t think I have ever noticed about the rain before is the way that each raindrop falls.  I never noticed that none of them fall at the same time.  As stupid as that sounds it was a really surprising realization that I had.  While walking around I ended up near the public safety building where I noticed the water eroding away at the gravel on the side of the building.  When I usually walk by there, it is nice and flat, but because it was pouring there was a very high flow, concentrated flow of water coming down from the service road.  This stream caused much of the gravel to erode leaving a ditch about a foot deep alongside the building.  As I stood their and watched the hole slowly got wider and deeper until it hit the side of the building and was confined to eroding one side of the road.  Another thing that took me by surprise was the way that water actually flows over the landscape.  Looking at it closely brings a certain excitement to my eyes that can’t be describes in words.  The way that they water always finds the lowest point is amazing, while it is obvious take a closer look at water flowing over the grass, it doesn’t flow over it, it flows around the separate blades of grass, weaving this way and that.

I was looking at a stream neat the Circle Apartments and I noticed how when at high enough velocities the water flows right over the rocks, forming what looks like a clear protective barrier, and when you put your finger in the middle of it, it separates and a wave like formation forms against your hand.  The water briefly splits down stream, but eventually it forms again.  And while bent over observing this is the point in which my camera fell out of my pocket, ruining it for all eternity.  I had some cool pictures of the water flowing but now they are all gone.

 

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