What We Do
We manage the watershed. Easy enough, right? It’s a simple enough sentence, but the theory itself is complex. It’s important to remember that everything in the natural world is connected through countless intricate relationships. Each action has a cause and effect. If we are aware of even a few of these relationships, we can take action to responsibly manage them and to maintain the environment they support (and upon which we depend). The first thing we have to talk about in watershed management is the watershed concept. A watershed is essentially a drainage basin in which all water drains to a single common outlet. Watersheds are defined by topography and range from a few square yards to thousands of square miles.
In our case, a landmass of 219 square miles drains any precipitation to a single common outlet which we know as Lake Wallenpaupack. What we do within that 219 square miles directly affects water quality in our tributaries and the lake. As precipitation and surface water flows over the land, the nutrients, chemicals, and soils it encounters are picked up and transported to the lake. These “hitchhikers” are what affects the quality of our water. On any given day, approximately 90 million gallons of water flow into the lake through tributaries and direct runoff. The lake itself contains somewhere around 40 billion gallons of water during most of the year. Treating the water through filtration, chemical applications, or biological augmentation just isn’t feasible due to the sheer volume. The costs would be so great and the threats so constant that we’d go broke and be fairly ineffective at keeping the lake clean. Our most effective and economically-viable option is to control pollution by stopping it at the source, or preventing it altogether. Responsible and effective watershed management requires working across multiple disciplines to affect change. The LWWMD works in three main program areas that can be described as “steps”.
How We Do It
Step one in managing the watershed is to know what processes are at work and what threats we’re facing. We accomplish this through research and water quality monitoring. We are fortunate to have one of the most extensive data sets in the Northeast. Our sampling program began in 1980 and has been through several transformations over the years as funding sources, sampling protocols, and research projects have changed. Historically, we have had five sites located on Lake Wallenpaupack. Today’s program evaluates water quality on the bottom of the lake and at the surface at two locations. Funding availability rendered it necessary to reduce our number of sites, and having an extensive data set made our choices scientific. We analyzed trends in the data and were able to determine that several of the sites were statistically similar.
Step 2 in preventing pollution is education. Education has the potential to be one of the most far-reaching tools available. We take what we know from our research and we talk about it. Yes, it really can be that simple. Our programs are ever-expanding. Educational programs include general information on watershed management. Many people have never heard of watershed management. Those who have heard of it often experience difficulty trying to define it. We give educational presentations to our local community associations, realtor’s groups, civic organizations, and countless other groups of people to make sure they know what we do. Other educational efforts are aimed at reducing the amount of fertilizers, pesticides, and chemicals people use at their homes. We also try to encourage the installation of rain gardens, rain barrels, and other tools that help to control stormwater. As the threat of invasive species increases, we do our best to ensure boaters, fishermen, and visitors have the knowledge to prevent spreading these species. We’ve produced brochures and boat ramp signs to spread the word about invasive species. We lead educational hikes, paddles, and sampling events, reaching thousands of people every year and providing education and advice on stopping pollution before it starts. We spend over two weeks a year with our local school, providing programming and place-based education.
Step 3 is the installation of Best Management Practices (BMPs). BMP’s are the most expensive aspect of watershed management. They often involve significant engineering and heavy construction practices to remediate issues that are contributing pollution to Lake Wallenpaupack. These management tools are designed to stop or reduce the flow of pollutants to the lake. Over the past 30+ years, we’ve helped to install and fund more than 100 BMPs throughout the watershed. BMPs can address agricultural waste and associated runoff, stormwater, pesticides, fertilizers, sewage, and erosion. Below are a few examples of projects we have completed.