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Watershed Stewardship

What is a watershed? A watershed is an area of land that drains into a body of water, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, sea or ocean. The watershed includes the network of rivers, streams and lakes that convey the water, as well as the land from which water runs off. Watersheds are separated from adjacent watersheds by high points such as mountains, hills and ridges. For general information about watersheds, visit the We All Live in a Watershed webpage.

Pollutants are materials that can harm plants, animals or humans. These materials may flow directly into a pond or stream or be washed off the land. Some can also seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater. Depending on the type and level of pollution, the waters of a watershed may become unsuitable for fishing, swimming, or even for aquatic animals to survive. What you do at your house affects everyone downstream and around you. We all need to work together to preserve and protect our watersheds.

Take Action

What can you do to help preserve and protect your watershed and environment?

Watershed Cleanup

Get involved. Become aware. Little things add up.

  • Get together with friends and local government to adopt a section of waterway. Plan a picnic and clean up the banks of a nearby waterway, bike route or highway. Picnic and camp responsibly. Leave nature as you found it for others to enjoy. To reduce litter, trash and garbage, bring your picnic treats and supplies in reusable containers. Take your reusable containers and trash out with you when you leave.
  • Conserve water every day. Turn off the water while brushing teeth and washing dishes. Take shorter showers. Fix any leaks. Clean drinking water is a valuable and limited resource.
  • Sweep sidewalks and driveways rather than hosing them off. Hosing hard surfaces wastes water and moves the debris into the storm drains. There it collects and can clog the drain. Instead, collect and compost yard waste and leave the grass clippings on the lawn to decay.
  • Don't waste water. Wash your car on the lawn, or better yet, use a commercial car wash. Most commercial car washes recycle or pre-treat their waste water, thereby reducing its effect on the environment.
  • Don't flush unused drugs and cosmetics down the drain. These pollutants find their way out into the environment and can damage our watershed and everything living in it. Instead, dispose of these items, along with fats, grease, diapers and personal hygiene products in the garbage can.
  • Fight mud! Help control soil erosion. Sediment & fine soil particles can suffocate fish and destroy their habitat. Cover bare areas of soil with mulch, or plant grass and ground cover to keep the rain from washing the soil into storm drains, ditches, streams and lakes.


Everyone lives in a watershed. It might be large or small. All watersheds are part of the bigger environment. What you do at your house affects everyone downstream and around you. You can set a good example for your family, friends and neighbors. Simple actions you take make big differences.

Find out about your watershed.

  • Where is my watershed in New York State?
    • What is special or unique about it?
    • Is there a pond, lake or stream near where I live?
  • How healthy is the water and the nearby environment?
  • Are there problems or issues in my watershed that I should be aware of?
  • How can I help preserve and protect my watershed from pollution?
  • Is there a local organization that gets involved with protecting my environment?

View a map of New York State's 17 major watersheds.

Help Prevent Pollution

Remember the 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

  • Recycle motor oil and automotive fluids: don't pour it in a storm drain or on the field next door. Return it to the place of purchase or other locations where the product is sold.
  • Dispose of hazardous materials such as paints, solvents, varnishes, fertilizers and electronics during Hazardous Waste Collection Days.
  • Reduce the use of fertilizers & pesticides.
  • Recycle yard wastes: compost yard waste and use it in the garden and on the lawn.
  • Recycle paper, plastic, metal and glass whenever possible.
  • Reduce air pollution: walk or ride a bike for short trips, car pool when possible and plan trip chains for appointments and errands.
  • Reduce litter: Put trash in containers and properly dispose of it.

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  • Contact for this Page
  • Division of Water
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-3500
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