We’re All Walking on Water

How does water end up underground?
The same water we drink, bathe, and play in is constantly recycling - Rainwater, Faucet water, and Stream water, were all once underground!

Based on the geology of our watershed, groundwater flows through caves, bedrock, and soil. Its quality and quantity varies daily, according to land use, population, stresses, and weather.

Who protects the water you drink from pollutants? You Do!
Your daily actions affect the quality of water here, and downstream.

What is a Watershed? 2

It`s not just your favorite fishing spot, and it`s not simply the spring bubbling out from the ground along the mountain. It`s also not just about the water that we drink or the septic systems in our backyards. But put all of these things together, and a true picture of a watershed starts to emerge.

A watershed includes each of these things and more. It includes family farms and subdivisions, old villages and industries, sewage treatment plants and tourist destinations. We all live in a watershed and what each of us does every day ultimately affects the stream that bears our watershed name.

Quite simply, water flows downhill. A watershed is all of the land area that drains downhill to one particular point.
In the Spring Creek Watershed, for example, a drop of water that falls as rain far up on the inner slopes of Tussey Mountain above Pine Grove Mills, eventually makes its way over the land, through the ground, or in the streams past Bellefonte to the point where the Spring Creek joins the Bald Eagle Creek in Milesburg.

Like limbs of a tree, smaller watersheds join larger watersheds, first the Bald Eagle, then the West Branch of the Susquehanna, and finally the Susquehanna, until a drop of water from the upper reaches of the Spring Creek Watershed flows into the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Even within the Spring Creek Watershed, a hierarchy of streams stretches its fingers out to the farthest reaches of the watershed`s land area. The names of tributaries such as buffalo Run, Logan branch, Slab Cabin Run, and Cedar Run, just to name a few, are familiar to people who might not otherwise identify themselves with Spring creek.

The Need for Watershed Protection

It is difficult to picture a watershed, but not quite so difficult to understand how important the quality of water is to life within it. Water is the foundation upon which all life depends – plants, animals, and people. It is this dependency, or co-dependency that caused the communities in the Spring Creek Watershed to take a hard look at where they are, what they’ve done, and what the future might hold. 1

The protection of water within the Spring Creek Watershed is dependent upon the actions of every stakeholder. Every day people live and work in the communities and enterprises that exist within the watershed. Day in and day out thousands of people go about their lives unaware of the impact their activities have on the watershed in which they live.1

Land Use: Our land use can act as a filtration system for pollutants, or if developed poorly, can act as a flume for polluted waters, directly into overburdened storm drains, or sensitive streams.
Stresses: When we do make poor land use choices, we see the effect in the quality of our water. We also see water and air quality affected by additional pollutants, most of which we can curb with best-management practices.
Demographics: Growth and change bring new challenges to the region. Many of the values which make our community an attractive place to live and work – open space, scenic beauty, clean air and water, recreational opportunities – are threatened by our increased population and the demands we make upon the land and waters. 3
Unique Characteristics: Although the entire watershed is environmentally sensitive, there are regions of high concern, such as high quality cold-water streams, sinkholes, which feed directly to our drinking water source, habitats for unique species of plant, animal or insects, or areas that are important for archaeological or historical reasons. Proper recognition of these characteristics allows for the necessary protection of them when planning growth.
Hydrogeologic and Geologic Features: Our underground water system is vast. Groundwater provides all of our daily use and local drinking water; it also is replenished by natural seepage into the ground, and runoff into sinkholes and streams. We need to ensure that the water replenishing our groundwater is of a quality we would be comfortable drawing out again for our needs, and also ensure that the amount being withdrawn does not overburden a groundwater supply that also keeps streams and springs running year round.

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We all affect the watershed in both positive and negative ways. The trick is learning how to balance the negative impacts with more positive impacts to create a better watershed environment and a higher-quality watershed community.

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Our Watershed, a Brief Summary

Spring Creek Watershed is in central Pennsylvania. It is completely contained within Centre County. Almost 70% of the people in Centre County live within the watershed, nearly 95,000 people. The watershed covers over 175 square miles of land. Spring Creek runs from it source to the east of Boalsburg northwards toward Bellefonte and on toward Milesburg, where it runs into Bald Eagle Creek. Along the way there are many smaller streams feeding Spring Creek. All these waterways pass through different municipalities and towns, through different rules and regulations that govern the activity in and around the creek.

Map with 3-D elevations: label Bald Eagle Mountain (north), Tussey Montain (south), Nittany Mountain (east)

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For more information

Great Link to general watershed info: http://www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/index2.html
What is a watershed w/ videos http://www.ctic.purdue.edu/KYW/glossary/whatisaws.html
Spring Creek Watershed Street Map and Fact Sheet

1. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences“Spring Creek: Living in a Watershed” video
2. This article appeared originally in the Centre Daily Times August 7, 1996, and was reproduced in January 1997 in Springs & Sinks, Volume 1, Number 1, Page 3 (HYPERLINK TO S&S) By Jennifer Watson Jennifer Watson is the Executive Director of The ClearWater Conservancy
3. Page 7 Corridor Study I

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This page was last edited by Deanna D. Novak on 8/3/01