Are you seeing more and more information about our watersheds when you’re out walking?

We sure are! From stencils near storm drains to signs by creeks and rivers, our country is finally paying attention to the health of our water sources.

What is a watershed exactly?

The National Ocean Service (NOC) tells us: “It’s a land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean.”

Some watersheds are small. But others can cover thousands of square miles. These consist of streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater. The NOC tells us, “The largest watershed in the United States is the Mississippi River Watershed, which drains 1.15 million square miles from all or parts of 31 US states and two Canadian provinces stretching from the Rockies to the Appalachians! “

In other words, the water you walk next to in Minnesota can end up in the Gulf of Mexico, which then flows out to the Atlantic, which connects via the Gulf Stream to England. This means that whatever is happening near you can affect the ecology half a world away! 

OceansCommit is raising awareness about plastic pollution in our oceans by holding events that combine walking and swimming —connecting each of us on land with the fate of this beautiful blue jewel of a planet. Our goal is to get people all over American to commit to reducing single-use plastic. We also hope to raise awareness that every choice we make affects the ecology of our entire planet. Each of us. One small action. 

Although almost half of the US population lives within 50 miles of the coast, plastic pollution is created all over this country. We walkers know this better than most! We see the plastic wrappers and bottles that wash into storm drains or underneath bridges, getting hung up on logs in little creeks. There’s nothing more disheartening on a beautiful walk than realizing how much trash there is out there! Eventually, of course, a lot of this litter makes its way to an ocean.

One of the coolest things to happen over the past decade has been the environmental activism encouraging communities to stencil their storm drains. These arty and fun stencils remind pedestrians that everything that washes into a storm drain makes its way into our water — be it our creeks and streams or our oceans. . .or our groundwater!

According to a recent survey, most Americans still believe that industry is the greatest source of water pollution. In fact, less than 40% of water pollution comes from factories. This, of course, means that the majority comes from us.

Another misnomer is the idea that everything that goes into a storm drain ends up in a sewage treatment plant. Not true! What goes into a storm drain almost always comes out in a neighborhood lake or river. This impacts water cleanliness, plants, as well as fish, bird, and animal life. That’s why these little stencils we often see when walking are such a wonderful way of making the connection between us and the health of water all over the world!

Similarly, signs near rivers that tell us where they are flowing also help us see the bigger picture. When we’re in the most landlocked part of Pennsylvania and we see that it is part of the Chesapeake watershed, we suddenly realize how connected everything is. Water from six states flows from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean through this watershed!

It’s easy to get disheartened. Easy to think that nothing we can do will make a difference. This is so untrue. Simply by being more and more aware of our choices, our surroundings, and how connected we all are to one another encourages us to begin to make different choices.

You can begin by signing up on the OceansCommit website to reduce single-use plastic in your own home, business, and community. And we hope you will join us in our upcoming EverWalk OceansCommit events to raise awareness for this critical issue.

We’re at a watershed moment in our history. How we walk together into our future determines the fate of our planet! Let’s remember that we are all flowing to the same place, and let’s choose to be as aware as possible of the choices we can make for good!

Onward EverWalk Nation!!