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Our Landscapes in the Watershed

Where Do You Live?

Where do you live? Think about that for a moment – it is a rather easy question to answer. I commonly ask this question at different programs. Most of the time I get responses associated with geopolitical boundaries or locations like Gainesville, Archer, or Florida.

These responses are not wrong, but I want to challenge us to think differently. Now try to answer the question, “Where do I live within an environmental context?” What is your new response? It is not as easy to answer. Robert Thayer, Jr, described these areas as our “life-place,” or areas defined by natural boundaries rather than geopolitical boundaries.

There are many ways we can define where we live in our environments. All my plant-loving friends, we can define where we live by climatic conditions like United States Department of Agriculture’s Hardiness Zones. Similarly we can define natural boundaries is with watersheds. A watershed is a natural geographic boundary defining where water collects and flows, typically into creeks, streams, rivers, or lakes.

Why does this matter? From the context of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program, we are concerned about our landscape management practices and their impacts on water quality and quantity. Every time a homeowner applies excess fertilizers or pesticides or unintentionally spills chemicals or oils-the pollutants need to go somewhere. Therefore, watersheds allow us to know where any stormwater runoff carries those pollutants, making our impacts more visible.

Watersheds as our Environmental Address

Watershed health affects stream, pond, and lake health. How we manage watersheds has a significant impact on overall environmental quality and affects economic and public health. Unfortunately, watersheds are incompatible with geopolitical boundaries, making policy development and enforcement difficult.

A great example was the legal battle between Florida and Georgia over water consumption within the Apalachicola River watershed. The Apalachicola Bay fisheries contribute $5.8 billion to west Florida’s economy but are dependent on freshwater flow from the Apalachicola River. Therefore, Georgia’s management decisions directly impact Apalachicola Bay and its economic benefits.

Geopolitical boundary incompatibilities with major watersheds highlight the importance of individuals to rethink where they live within the environment. Thinking in the context of our environmental boundaries, or “Life-Place” allows us to see our impacts more visibly. In other words, individuals begin to make decisions to lessen their impacts on the environment.

As we think about our “Life-Place,” it allows us to reconnect with our environment and becomes a reasonable scale to think about sustainable communities and environmental resilience.

So where do you live within an environmental context? Please let me know. If you live in the Gainesville area, do you live in the Hogtown Creek Watershed, Sweetwater Branch Watershed, or Little Hatchet Creek Watershed? Feel free to contact UF/IFAS Extension Office in Alachua County If you need help determining which watershed you live in.

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