Our Shrinking Watershed

Larry Caldwell larryc at teleport.com
Sat Apr 10 16:36:44 EST 2004

In article <97682ad.0404092225.444ca03 at posting.google.com>, 
armich at cox.net (Rich McGuiness) says...

>  Development and land use practices have decreased the watersheds
> ability to handle precipitation before it becomes runoff, at which
> point it is no longer an asset in the watershed. It can only create
> destruction until it joins a larger body of water. We have made this
> worse by focusing on draining the land for agriculture, development
> and in road building. We now have runoff even in very small events
> were once it took massive rainfall to overwhelm the storage capacity
> of the soil. Runoff is always a problem on steep ground, almost always
> creating some kind of disturbance to the ground between its source and
> its target outlet. Runoff increases as water conditioning land use
> decreases, and as the soils ability to store water is diminished and
> destabilized.
>   Forests should drip and be moist year round. 

This is a typical attitude among people ignorant of the range of forests 
in North America.  One of the great environmental tragedies is the 
encroachment of juniper in arrid regions.  If a juniper canopy 
approaches 40%, the ecology of the area is completely destroyed, and is 
unable to recover on its own.  Fortunately, grazing leases holders in 
the West are addressing the juniper control problem.  Otherwise, it 
would be completely ignored by the federal government.

Trees are fierce competitors for available water.  Far from dripping 
year round, many forests use nearly 100% of the available moisture.  
Trees kill each other competing for moisture, and the dessicated fuels 
feed fire storms that bake a water impermeable layer into the soil.

The best approach to watershed management varies widely, depending on 
local conditions.  


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