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What is A Watershed?

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A watershed is the area of land that catches rain and snow and drains or seeps into a marsh, stream, river, lake or groundwater. You are sitting in a watershed now. Homes, farms, ranches, forests, small towns, big cities and more can make up watersheds. Some watersheds cross county, state, and even international borders such as the Great Lakes Basin. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. Some are millions of square miles, others are just a few acres. Just as creeks drain into rivers, watersheds are nearly always part of a larger watershed or basin. For example the St. Joseph River Watershed is part of the Lake Michigan Watershed which is part of the Great Lakes Basin. Every stream, tributary or river has an associated watershed.


Most watersheds are composed of a mixture of uplands, wetlands, riparian areas, streams and lakes. The most common component of almost all watersheds is the upland area, covering in many cases over 99% of the total watershed area. The rain and snow that falls onto a watershed, and that does not evaporate, is stored in the soil, and over a period of time is released down slope through groundwater, wetlands and streams. This water then moves through a network of drainage pathways, both underground and on the surface.

What watershed are you located in?


Choose any of the following links to view information on each watershed program:

Berrien CountySt. Joseph, Galien, Lower St. Joseph/Galien Phase II Program

Cass CountySt. Joseph (Dowagiac & Rocky), Lower St. Joseph/Galien Phase II Program

Kalamazoo County-Kalamazoo River

Van Buren CountySt. Joseph (Paw Paw), Black River, Kalamazoo River

St. Joseph County-Rocky River


All five counties in Southwestern Michigan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren Counties, are in the Great Lakes Basin.


The two counties, Berrien and Cass, participate in a joint effort to collaborate in the implementation of the Phase II Storm Water Management project designed to improve the water quality of our lakes, streams, and rivers in order to provide safe swimming, fishing, canoeing, drinking water, etc.

This page last updated on 6/4/2019.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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