Defining Watershed

What is watershed? When water runs off the land and follows the topographic features, eventually draining into form basins that drain to a lake or river, it is known as watershed. In the Twin Cities metropolitan area, most of the runoff, including that coming from Blaine, is part of the Mississippi River watershed.

Blaine Watershed Districts

Within that large area, smaller watershed areas called watershed districts exist. Blaine has three watershed districts:

  • The eastern part of the city is in the Rice Creek Watershed District (RCWD), where runoff drains to ditches that flow into Rice Creek, which empties into the Mississippi.
  • The western and southwestern part of the city is in the Coon Creek Watershed District (CCWD), draining through ditches to Coon Creek, which also empties into the Mississippi and the area that drains into either Pleasure Creek or Spring Brook Creek, which again empty into the Mississippi River.

Impact of Urban Development

Before urban development, our watershed was covered with oak savannah interspersed with marshland and tall grass prairie. Today concrete, asphalt and roofs cover close to half of the Mississippi River watershed in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Development in Blaine is rapidly paving over many of those natural areas as well, with the impervious surfaces keeping water from being absorbed into the ground. Instead, water flows over the solid surfaces, picking up pollutants and carrying them directly into the Mississippi River, creating a problem called urban runoff.

Urban runoff is apparent during every rain and in the spring during snow melts: water runs off roofs, trickles across parking lots and flows down street gutters.

Polluted Waters

In urban areas, most water from rain, snowmelt or lawn sprinkling flows through storm drains and into a vast network of pipes and ditches. These pipes and ditches carry water directly from neighborhoods to local wetlands, streams and rivers. Waters become polluted when materials like grass clippings, leaves, pesticides, motor oil and pet waste are flushed through storm drains and eventually into the Mississippi River.

The good news is that the river is cleaner than it has been in the past several decades. The bad news is that polluted runoff is a major problem.

Become a Watershed Watcher

Do you want to make a difference in promoting cleaner water and a healthier environment? If so, visit the Become a Watershed Watcher page to learn how to help your community.