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The Forgotten Watershed:
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed in New York State

When a thunderstorm drenches a farmer's field outside of Oneontaâ?¦ or a cook throws dishwater down a drain in Ithaca â?¦or a toilet is flushed in Bathâ??the Chesapeake Bay is affected.

Seemingly far removed from the Chesapeake Bay, parts of New York state are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. What does that mean? It means that all water that falls on this bit of land or that goes down the sink in a kitchen in this part of New York State will eventually, through many creeks, rivers, and streams, end up in the Chesapeake Bay.

The following map shows this "forgotten watershed."

Map of the Chesapeake Bay watershed  in New York State. About one-fifth of the watershed is within the New York State borders.

Picture: Map of the part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed that is in New York State. All the rivers on this map connect to other rivers, that will connect to other rivers, that will reach the Chesapeake Bay... Map reproduced with permission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

About 20 percent of the watershed is in New York State, but few who live there think what they do affects the Chesapeake Bay.

What can people in this part of the watershed do to protect the Chesapeake Bay? They can do the same as everyone else in the watershed: Think about what substances you use and how you get rid of them.

Many common household products, like paint thinners, moth balls, and oven cleaners, contain toxic ingredients. If you pour those products down the drain, they will pollute a nearby river or creek, as well as the Chesapeake Bay.

You can find out from your county Solid Waste Management Office how you can dispose of these materials. Or try using some less toxic alternatives. To keep your local watershed and the Bay clean, you can also apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions, and keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains because these outlets drain directly to lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands.

By taking these small steps in and around your own home or business, you are helping to stop the effects of "nonpoint source pollution" from urban areas.

"Nonpoint source" refers to the fact that there is not a single point where the pollution is entering the river or stream; typically, the pollutants are carried off the land by stormwater after a heavy rain or snow fall. When it rains, the water runs over the land and picks up chemicals like oil, grease, fertilizers, and insecticides, and carries these pollutants to the nearest river or lake.

Though this kind of urban runoff is just one of the sources of nonpoint source pollutionâ??other common nonpoint sources are agriculture, forestry, and miningâ??the most recent National Water Quality Inventory indicates that runoff from urban areas is the leading source of water quality problems for estuaries and the third largest source of water quality problems for lakes in their survey.

What you do in the watershed clearly has an effect on the Bay!

References and further reading

EPA website on nonpoint source pollutionoutside link
Learn more about nonpoint source pollution and what you can do to prevent it.