What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land that drains to a common body of water, such as a nearby creek, stream, river or lake. Sometimes known as drainage basins or catchments, watersheds are determined by topography because water always takes the path of least resistance, flowing downward due to gravity.

For example, when it rains, all the water from a small watershed may travel downstream to a local creek. That creek will flow into a larger stream, like Brush Creek, which in turn collects water from an even larger watershed. Brush Creek flows into the Blue River, which then deposits water into the Missouri River. View an interactive, nine-county regional map of watersheds»

We all live in a watershed.

We all live downstream

Watersheds cross city, county and state lines. When different communities share a watershed, the residents of all the cities and counties in the watershed need to address issues like flooding and water quality together. All of our actions impact our upstream and downstream neighbors.

What’s the problem?

During the construction of homes, roads and office buildings, vegetation is often removed and replaced by large paved areas. These impervious surfaces keep rain from seeping into the soil and recharging groundwater supplies. Paved surfaces also increase the speed and amount of water that rushes down gutters and into storm drains during a rain storm. This “stormwater runoff” picks up pollutants from motor oil, lawn chemicals, pet waste, salt, litter and soil along the way, before flowing to rivers, lakes and streams — untreated.

The large amount of untreated water entering the storm sewer system — and eventually our streams and lakes — has lasting health, safety, environmental and economic impacts on our watersheds and communities.

Watersheds support a wide variety of plants and wildlife and provide outdoor recreation opportunities for residents. Protecting the health of our watersheds preserves and enhances the quality of life for Kansas City residents and those living downstream.

What can you do?

  1. Landscape with native plants to increase water infiltration and decrease lawn maintenance.
  2. Never discard trash or yard waste down storm drains or in the street.
  3. Dispose of pet waste properly.
  4. Use lawn chemicals safely. Always follow label instructions and never apply before rain or watering the lawn, unless directed.
  5. Redirect downspouts to drain rainwater onto lawns and gardens.
  6. Wash your car at a professional car wash that filters the wastewater or wash your car in a grassy area. Do not wash cars on driveways or in the street.
  7. Use rain barrels or rain gardens to conserve rainwater on your property.