The first day of summer is officially June 21, but it sure has felt like summer quite a bit in May. Summer brings with it the desire to be outdoors (using sunblock of course!). For many of us, these warm weather days are custom made for fishing, running through the sprinkler, boating, throwing water balloons and swimming. To better appreciate how much water ratchets up your fun in the sun, I put together this short quiz, the Water IQ Test.
What is a watershed? There are several definitions ranging from technical to simple. The one I find most informative is: a watershed is the land area that discharges surface water and groundwater to a common basin such as a stream, river, lake or reservoir. Watersheds vary in size depending on the natural features of land the water flows across.
What are Ohio’s two major watersheds? The Ohio River and Lake Erie. Rivers and streams in the northern third of the state flow to the lake and those in the southern two thirds flow into the river.
In what watershed is Delaware County? The Ohio River. You get extra points if you also said that we are in the Scioto River watershed!
OK, so we have established that Delaware County is in the Scioto River watershed which drains to the Ohio River. Then where does the water go? The Ohio joins the Mississippi River which ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.
Do you know in what specific watershed you live? Yes, Delaware County residents are all in the Scioto River watershed but did you know you can break it down further? All of our water gets to the Ohio River via the Scioto River but that can be through several different smaller watersheds. Some of our land drains directly to the Scioto but much of the land drains into the Upper Big Walnut Creek, into Alum Creek, or into the Olentangy River before finally reaching the Scioto.
What are Delaware County’s largest water bodies? Alum Creek Reservoir, Delaware Lake, Hoover Reservoir and O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.
What is the largest watershed in the United States? The Mississippi River watershed drains 1.15 million square miles from all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces.
What is the average rainfall for our area? We usually get between 37 and 38 inches per year. Contrast this with Las Vegas and Phoenix which often average less than 10 inches of rain or snow per year.
What is ground water? Some of our precipitation soaks into the soil where it is used by plants. Some infiltrates much deeper into the soil and collects in the void spaces, pores, and fractures in the soil and rock at some depth below the earth’s surface and is referred to as ground water. If these formations are capable of yielding usable quantities of ground water to a well they are called aquifers.
How can you be a water steward? With 37 to 38 inches of rainfall a year, it may not seem like we need to worry about water; however, in the summer our demands for water increase, and can really accelerate if we have a dry spell. Some tips:
• Mulch can protect gardens, ornamental plants, shrubs, and young trees and save on water usage. It helps hold soil moisture, shades sensitive roots, and keeps down weeds.
• Installing drip irrigation or soaker hoses can improve efficiency and reduce evaporation from the sun’s summer rays.
• Mow higher. Mowing at three inches allows the grass to shade its own roots and reduces watering.
• Landscape with native plants which are adapted to Ohio’s crazy summer weather. They are also good for attracting pollinators to your yard.
• Clean up pet droppings, yard waste, grass clippings, litter, fertilizer, and vehicle fluids so they don’t get carried into the storm sewer or road ditch by rainfall and snowmelt runoff. These items end up in our streams, rivers, and lakes as pollutants causing problems for humans, pets and wildlife.
Rain barrels can capture roof water which can then be used to water gardens and lawns. Delaware SWCD is hosting a Rain Barrel Workshop on June 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Galena Municipal Building. Visit our website to learn all the details at www.delawareswcd.org.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.