John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is: "that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water sourse and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community."
Water is our world's most precious resource. Being made of almost 80% water, human beings rely on this molecular collection of elements more than any other in the world. Unfortunately, with urbanization and densification, natural watersheds in urban areas are being heavily damaged, and destroyed. Areas that were once natively vegetated, and filtered water naturally and gradually, have been replaced by impervious materials [roads, parking lots, buildings] and mechanized replacements [sewer and storm water drainage systems.] By stripping the land of its natural processes, we fast track the water cycle. What this means is that the rain water that rushes over a polluted industrial park winds up back in the lake, and ultimately in our tap water much much faster, and dirtier, than it ever would have. The effects of urbanization and the disruption of watersheds is not easily reversible, but good design practices can help slow the velocity of destruction which is currently taking place.
Our studio will be looking at the West Creek Watershed, and will be coming up with design solutions that can help to slow the disruption to natural watersheds. The West Creek Preservation Committee is dedicated to doing just this, and we will be studying some of the projects and techniques they have been employing to help save our most precious resource.
This committee has put together an excellent resource, the Watershed Action Plan.
On a much smaller scale, The University of Maryland has designed a model project that demonstrates ways that human settlements can be designed to help protect the watershed ecosystem. With designs like this making up the urban fabric of cities, our worlds watersheds could be in much better shape.