Your local watershed is a key influencer on the health of the coastal environment and its denizens. During our CAP Classes, we walk our students through how natural drainage systems work to remove water from inland to the sea. This post will seek to explain to our remote athletes how watersheds work, how they influence the health of the ecosystem, and how they should factor into your safety assessment.
Let us start by examining the root of the word “watershed”
early 19th century: from water + shed in the sense ‘ridge of high ground’ (related to shed), suggested by German Wasserscheide, literally ‘water-divide.¹
In layman’s terms, a watershed refers to regional water drainage zones dictated by elevation that move rainfall and flooding to/streams/creeks to be returned to the sea.
Understanding the local watershed reduces the risk of unnecessary exposure to pathogens and pollutants. It is crucial to remember that watersheds provide drainage to inland valleys so just because the coast has had no rain does not mean the situation is the same upstream.
Knowledge and understanding of watershed hygiene is half the battle. How the prevailing ocean currents flow, and how they fluctuate depending on the tides and conditions, is the other half. Contaminated water can be found miles away from river mouths, so make sure to check with NOAA and other regional water quality monitoring organizations. Tidal changes (>2 full cycles) can help purge a zone and return it to safe levels of contamination, however, the eddy effect can create collection points depending on shoreline and subsurface topography.
Monterey Bay and the Salinas Valley are the salad bowl of the United States. A by-product of this production is hazardous runoff caused by fertilizers and pest deterrents. While most farms use relatively eco-friendly products, there is always a risk that someone somewhere is cutting corners which could result in a subsequent downstream pollution scenario. This is not unique to Monterey County, as all river mouths should be considered hazardous following heavy rains inland.
Monterey County feeds our Nation – crops grown in Monterey County supply large percentages of total national pounds produced each year: 61% of leaf lettuce, 57% of celerey, 56% of head lettuce, 48% of brocolli, 38% of spinach, 30% of cauliflower, 28% of strawberries, and 3.6% of wine grapes. ½
If you are training in the ocean, it is your obligation to reduce risk exposure when possible. Jump on to THIS SITE² and see how wave action, wind, and other atmospheric forces affect your work site. If you are an aquatic first responder, this should be added to a daily consideration/check.