A watershed or a catchment is a piece of land or an area that drains rainwater into a lake, river or stream. Watershed management is thus appropriate use and management of soil, water and vegetation to result in optimum use of water and for preservation of the soil layer. Good watershed management helps to prepare the environment against man-made activities of logging and mining, as well as against natural calamities like floods and landslides.
Appropriate vegetation prevents rainwater and soil to run away from the region. If the soil is allowed to flow away with the water into the river and then into the sea, it will raise the sea level due to siltation and the fertility of soil on the land is also decreased.
Integrated watershed management is a community approach that works towards improving the life of people in different areas, whether the water supply of the region is in excess, or whether it is deficient. Appropriate use of land and water will also provide employment to people. This way water can be used optimally, which will eventually lead to economic development.
Means of integrated watershed management:
There are a number of ways by which the environment can benefit from integrated watershed management. With active participation of the government and the public, success can be achieved.
i. Urban and rural planning by the government needs to be such that it avoids wastage of water. This involves proper distribution of water among regions.
ii. Treating industrial wastewater with filtration or ultrafiltration to remove contamination from the water before it is released into the seas.
iii. Undertaking afforestation activities to avoid soil erosion and for prevention of floods.
iv. Industries should use technology that prevents contamination of water. They should not dump chemical wastes into water bodies. They should use water optimally for their industrial processes.
v. Appropriate agricultural practices like terrace farming and bunds should be encouraged to preserve the top soil layer and avoid wastage of water on the hills.
vi. Dams and reservoirs can help maintain the water level. They avoid wastage of water and help in equitable distribution of water.
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Purposes of watershed management:
i. Watershed management helps to maintain the groundwater level for the future. With the increasing population, the need for water is increasing but water as a resource is declining. Watershed management will help meet this divide.
ii. If sufficient water is not available, it can lead to social as well as economic problems in the future. People will be fighting for water and farmers will be in a poor situation if water is not made available.
iii. Watershed management not only helps to maintain the soil surface of the earth, it also helps in retaining overflowing water for use in the future.
iv. If we want to maintain the food cycle of the planet, we have to ensure that water is not contaminated and wasted. If rains are not tapped by afforestation, we will spoil the land’s surface. This will also lead to problems for species that require water and soil for existence.
v. Industries require water to function. If their demands are not met, it can lead to economic losses as well.