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Arizona Master Watershed Steward Educational Website

As a Master Watershed Steward, your role is to support water and watershed protection, restoration, conservation, and monitoring efforts. This website is intended to equip you to more effectively participate in watershed management activities which directly and positively impact water and watersheds in your area.

What is a watershed?

A watershed.Briefly, a watershed is “the land area that drains into a stream; the watershed for a major river may encompass a number of smaller watersheds that ultimately combine at a common point” (EPA Terms of Environment).

Watersheds encompass all of the land – including soils, vegetation, people, and infrastructure – draining to a particular point. The components of a watershed are all connected; a change to one feature has a rippling effect throughout the other elements of the system. For example, watersheds and activities within them are inextricably linked to both water quantity and quality, having direct impacts on the physical properties, cycling, and storage of water. Coordinated and conscious efforts are required to ensure the quantity and quality of our water resources under continuously changing conditions.

What is watershed management?

“The analysis, protection, development, operation or maintenance of the land, vegetation and water resources of a drainage basin, or area drained by a main river and its tributaries, for the conservation of all its resources for the benefit of its residents” (StreamNet).

Watershed management uses a natural boundary to delineate a management unit and takes into account the wide variety of activities occurring within, including land management, development, natural disturbances, vegetation communities, and human actions. This multi-disciplinary approach must be based on partnering, sound science, and well-planned actions.

“Watershed management is the integration and coordination of activities that affect the watershed’s natural resources and water quality” ( This includes services such as flood control, water conservation, open space and habitat preservation, and pollution reduction. Some examples of activities that fall within watershed management include:

  • Managing stream flow
  • Flood control
  • Minimizing the influx of nutrients to surface and groundwater bodies through careful land uses
  • Post-fire mitigation: restoring vegetation cover, minimizing erosion
  • Managing riparian and aquatic habitat for fish and macroinvertebrates
  • Preserving and creating open space
  • Planning subdivision developments to minimize impervious surface

As you can see, watershed management is a broad concept, encompassing subject matter from many disciplines. Watersheds can be viewed as ecosystems, in which the different components (soils, plants, streams, animals, people) are in delicate balance and provide valuable functions. This perspective of interconnectedness will be our lens for exploring watersheds in greater depth. Following is a series of modules designed to prepare you to more effectively participate in watershed management activities.

All contents copyright 2007. Arizona Board of Regents.