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An Internet WebQuest

Virginia's Watersheds



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.

Questions about Virginia's Watersheds

  1. What is a watershed? Which Virginia county do you live in? Which one of Virginia's 14 watersheds does your county belong to?
  2. What benefits do wetlands provide?
  3. What is an estuary, and why is it an important part of a watershed?
  4. What is a Secchi disk, and how is it used to monitor water quality?
  5. 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?
  6. What is a tributary? Which tributaries are in your watershed?
  7. What is nonpoint source pollution, and what can be done to control it?
  8. 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.

  • http://www.wqa.org/glossary.cfm
    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.
  • http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/dictionary.html
    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.
  • http://www.ctic.purdue.edu/KYW/glossary/whatisaws.html
    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.
  • http://www.naco.org/counties/queries/city1_res.cfm?

    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.
  • http://www.cnr.vt.edu/PLT/watersheds.html
    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.
  • http://www.watershed.interactive-environment.com/main/about.php
    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.
  • http://www.epa.gov/owow/estuaries/kids/about/index.htm
    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.
  • https://www.deq.state.va.us/webapp/wqm_station.get_parm
    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.
  • http://dipin.kent.edu/secchi.htm
    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.
  • http://www.dcr.state.va.us/sw/wsheds.htm#vawshedsites
    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.
  • http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/qa.html
    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.
  • http://www.dcr.state.va.us/sw/nps.htm
    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.
  • http://www.vims.edu/adv/ed/bt/toes1.html
    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.
  • http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/facts/
    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.
  • http://www.dcr.state.va.us/sw/crep.htm
    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.
  • http://www.wm.edu/geology/virginia/rivers/rivers.html
    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.



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