There are four main Earth systems. The lithosphere is the solid,
inorganic portion of Earth. The atmosphere is the gases that surround
the planet. The biosphere is the area on Earth where living organisms
exist. The hydrosphere contains all of Earth's water in its various
forms. The hydrosphere affects the other three parts of Earth. Liquid
water is the key component of the hydrosphere, and it accounts for
more than 70 percent of Earth's surface.
Every person lives in a watershed, which is the area of land that
catches precipitation such as snow and rain and drains into a stream,
river, lake, or marsh. Virginia has 14 major watersheds. By studying
watersheds, you’ll understand more about the connected waterways
in your town or city. You’ll also learn about how humans impact
watersheds. For example, what types of pollution affect watersheds?
How are different groups taking action to protect watersheds? In this
WebQuest, you will explore the topic of watersheds and find the answers
to some of these questions.
Your job in the WebQuest is to learn about Virginia’s watersheds.
You will investigate what a watershed is, find out which watershed
you live in, and understand the different features that form a watershed.
You’ll also explore how water quality is monitored and find out
about controlling pollution and promoting conservation of this important
natural resource. As you conduct your research, you will answer a set
of questions about Virginia’s watersheds to demonstrate what
you have learned. Finally, you will use a map to identify physical
features you’ve researched that are located in your watershed
and write a summary of your research.
Read through the following set of questions before you being your
Internet research. As you explore each site, look for answer to the
Questions about Virginia's Watersheds
- What is a watershed? Which Virginia county do you live in? Which
one of Virginia's 14 watersheds does your county belong to?
- What benefits do wetlands provide?
- What is an estuary, and why is it an important part of a watershed?
- What is a Secchi disk, and how is it used to monitor water quality?
- Select a water quality monitoring station near your school or home.
When was the last sample collected? What was the temperature (in degrees
Celsius) and the field pH?
- What is a tributary? Which tributaries are in your watershed?
- What is nonpoint source pollution, and what can be done to control
- What actions are being taken to conserve watersheds?
Map of Your Watershed
Next, visit the following Web site: http://www.cnr.vt.edu/PLT/watersheds.html
Click the watershed you live in to show a map for that watershed.
Use this map to identify and label physical features of your watershed.
You may identify features such as cities, towns, water quality monitoring
stations, and tributaries.
Summary of Research
After you have identified locations on your map, use the map and
the answers to the questions about Virginia's watersheds to write a
summary about your watershed. As you write the summary about your watershed,
think about how this information could be shared with other people
in your community. You should think about a specific audience you'd
like to share this information with as you write the summary. The goal
of your writing is to help others gain knowledge about your watershed.
Look at the Web sites given here to find information that will help
you answer questions about Virginia’s watersheds and to gather
information to use as you identify features on a map of your watershed.
Visit the Water Quality Association’s glossary on their Web
site. Click a letter in the alphabet locator then scroll down to find
the word in the term box.
The United States Geological Survey’s Water Science for Schools
page includes a dictionary of terms related to water. Scroll down
the page to read the definition of different words.
This site, sponsored by the Conservation Technology Information Center
at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, provides information about
watersheds. Read the definition of a watershed and watch the What
is a Watershed? video.
Use the National Association of Counties Web site to help you find
out which county you live in. Use the letter selector to search for
your community’s name. If it does not appear, select another
town or city close to yours to figure out the county you live in.
Project Learning Tree has an interactive site to help you find out
which one of Virginia’s 14 watersheds you live in. Click the
watershed that matches the county you live in to find out more about
land use within that watershed. You can compare the land use in your
watershed to the land use for the entire state.
Visit this interactive page to learn more about the different features
that make a watershed. Be sure to read about what watersheds are,
how different kinds of science can be studied in a watershed, and
the types of animals that live in watersheds. Click the link for Wetlands,
#4, and explore Wetlands: Our Vital Link between Land and Water.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has information about our
environment and how people can work to protect our country’s
natural resources. Click the What is an estuary? link and
the Why are estuaries important? link to read about this
feature of watersheds.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality uses their Web site
to provide information about natural resources for the state. Visit
this page to investigate water quality monitoring. Select a city or
county from the pull-down page, then click the “Query”
button. Click the link under Station ID to find information about
a water quality monitoring station. Then click the link for Click
here for list of Samples by Date and Time to find specific data
collected at that location.
The Great North American Secchi Dip-In site describes how volunteers
collect data from lakes, rivers, and estuaries in their communities.
Visit this site to learn about their program and to read how transparency
data is collected.
The map and table on this page at the Virginia Department of Conservation
and Recreation lists the major rivers and streams that contribute
to the 14 Virginia watersheds. Find out which rivers and streams are
in the watershed you live in.
Review the information about nonpoint source pollution at the EPA’s
Web site. Find out what nonpoint source pollution is, what causes
it, and what we can do to prevent it.
Learn more about types of nonpoint source pollution and steps being
taken to control it at the Virginia Department of Conservation and
Recreation’s Web site.
This Web site contains a teacher lesson plan from the Virginia Institute
of Marine Science. Scroll down the page to The Story of Bernie’s
Toes section to learn about nonpoint source pollution.
The EPA provides information fact sheets about nonpoint source pollution
at their Web site. Click the links to read about different strategies
for managing this type of pollution.
Virginia’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program was established
in 1985. Its goals are to improve Virginia’s water quality and
wildlife habitats by working with farmers to restore riverbanks and
wetlands through conservation. Read about this program at the Virginia
Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Web site.
This page at the College of William and Mary’s Department of
Geology Web site shows Virginia’s watersheds and communities
located in those watersheds. Click the map to see a larger version
and to view town locations.
3 class periods for research, answering the set of questions, identifying
physical features on your watershed map, and writing a summary.
While completing this WebQuest, you've learned about Virginia's
watersheds and the smaller bodies of water that are part of the watersheds.
You have learned about ways to monitor water quality and investigated
nonpoint source pollution and watershed conservation strategies. You
have also developed research skills as you explored the Web sites and
identified the relevant information to answer the questions. You applied
what you learned about your watershed to identify physical features
in your watershed on a map and to write a summary about your watershed.
By learning about your watershed, you understand more about freshwater
resources in Virginia, how the state's watersheds are connected,
and the importance of practicing conservation.