North Carolina is a diverse land withENVIRONMENTAL natural beauty that appeals to residents EDUCATION and visitors alike.It is also a land experiencing competition for its natural resources that arealready under stress and that could be lost to us in the absence of a widespreadawareness of their existence, their significance and their value.Natural resources are not isolated from each other or the people who use them.Each resource is an integral part of the ecosystem. When one part of the system isaffected, other parts feel the impact. It is environmental education that providesthe knowledge, understanding and awareness of this interconnectedness of allthings and gives us the ability to make informed environmental decisions.The more we understand and respect our own community, the more capable weare of being good stewards of the environment. If you have ever visited one ofNorth Carolina’s many Environmental Education Centers—nature centers, parks,aquariums, museums, the zoo, public gardens, etc.—then you have alreadystarted appreciating natural systems and had fun while learning about them.Environmental education is not issue advocacy or a biased point of view.Environmental education enables communities to care for their own environ-ment. Living within the limits set by the environment depends on the beliefsand commitment of individuals. Individuals working together as a communityhave more power to promote practices that can nourish rather than crippletheir natural life-support systems.
I N T H E 1 9 9 0 S , several crises elevated rivers in the public consciousness. First came Pfiesteria, a lethal organism that killed millions of fish in coastal waters. Then a series of hurricanes brought river and development issues to the fore- front. How we treat rivers and the land around them has a direct relationship to our quality of life. The purpose of this booklet is to describe how river basins function and how humans and rivers are interconnected. It demonstrates how decisions we make as homeowners and citizens affect the quality of the water we drink, swim in and fish from. With North Carolina’s this knowledge, individuals can make more informed deci- sions regarding their environment. River BasinsKEN TAYLOR, WILDLIFE IMAGES W H AT I S A R I V E R B A S I N ? A river basin is the land that water flows across or under on its way to a river. As a bathtub catches all the water that falls within its sides, a estuary: a semi- enclosed area where fresh water from a river meets river basin sends all the water falling on the surrounding land into a central salty water from the sea river and out to an estuary or the sea. river basin: drainage area of a river A river basin drains all the land around a major GRAPHIC BY ERIN HANCOCK, NCWRC river. Basins can be divided into watersheds, or areas of land around a smaller river, stream or lake. Large river basins, such as the Neuse and watershed: all the land drained Cape Fear, are made by a river, stream up of many smaller or lake groundwater: the watersheds. The land- water found in scape is made up of many interconnected cracks and pores in sand, gravel watersheds. Within each watershed, all water and rocks below runs to the lowest point—a stream, river, lake the earth’s surface or ocean. On its way, water travels over the land surface—across farm fields, forestland, suburban lawns and city streets, or it seeps into the soil and travels as groundwater. Everyone lives in a river basin. You influence ecosystem: a natural sys- what happens in your river basin, tem linked by living (plants, good or bad, by how you treat the natural resources—the soil, water, air, plants and animals) and nonliving (soil, air, water) things. animals. As water moves downstream, it carries and redeposits gravel, sand and silt. Water also transfers bacteria, chemicals, excess nutrients and organic matter. Whatever happens to the surface water or groundwater upstream will eventually affect downstream systems. Therefore, the health of the aquatic ecosystem is directly related to activities on land. 1
North Carolina’s Phoenix Mtn. Sparta AL L EG HANY 4690 er Jefferson S TO K E S S U R RY iv R R AS HE E Da n Dobson R iv e ew Danbury N G W W at M ou ntains n atow WATAUG A D R iver Saur Belew s au Lake Boone ga I W IL KE S R. n Roan Mtn. R dki Ya YA D K I N 6285 W. Ker r Scott Newland Grandfather Mtn. Reser v oir F OR S YT H 5964 Wilkesboro ns Yadkinville ai Kernersville M I T CHE L L ou nt Winston-Salem N AV E RY M or th Bakersville y E sh Burnsville T o e B ru Fr CAL DWE L L High en c h M AD I S O N R iv U ALE X ANDE R DAVIE Point YANCE Y er Lenoir Taylorsville Mocksville Mt . Mitchel l L I RED E L L Thomasville Marshall 6684 Lak e Hi ckor y Mt. Sterling B Lak e Lexington Mt . Hardison 5835 awba Rhodhiss Statesville 6134 Cat Lookout DAVI D S O N P ig R Br Morganton Shoals iv Clingmans M cDOWE L L Hickory er oad Lak e eon Lak e BU R KE Dome Jame s s Marion Newton ta in 6643 oun H AY WOO D BU N CO M B E South ROWA N H i gh Uwhar ri e ky M k Asheville C ATAWBA R G reat S m o al P ar Waterrock R oc k Salisbur y N a tio n Waynesville Cold Mtn. Knob Lak e S WA IN Fontana 6292 Mountain L ittle Mountains Lake 6030 Mt . Pisgah Mooresville Tu cke r t ow n Richland Lak e B Badi n L INCO LN 5721 Reser v oir al Balsam Lak e Nor man Lak e Bryson sa Sylva rie GRAHA M 6540 Lur e City Lincolnton Kannapolis m R iv e r Tu RUTHE RF O RD har Santeetlah c Pe ka CLE V E L AND M Robbinsville Concord Uw Lak e B e HE N DE RS O N Te ou ro Rutherfordton M o untain se POLK Albemarle nt Kings Mountain C A BA R RU S De Island nn Wayah ge ad ai Na R eser v oir Bald Hendersonville G A S TO N Lake e ess JAC K S O N ns e MONTGO n ta CHE ROK E E 5342 Brevard Ri Columbus Shelby S TA N LY ee hal H ve iw Nantahala r TRANS Y LVANI A R iv Gastonia Franklin a M ou nt a in s Lake MECKL E NBU R G as Lak e er se Ti l l er y e Murphy R i v e C LAY Standing M AC ON Lak e Mint Hill Charlotte Hiwassee r Indian Mtn. W y lie R iv e r Lak e 5499 Ch atuge Hayesville Lak e Matthews R iv er Monroe Wadesboro U NI O N A NS O N NORTH CAROLINA HAS 17 MAJOR RIVER BASINS. Five of the state’s river basins—the Hiwassee, Little T ennessee, French Broad, Watauga and New—are part of the Mississippi River Basin, which drains to the Gulf of Mexico. All the others flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 17 basins, 11 originate in North Carolina, but only four are contained entirely within the state’s borders—the Cape Fear, Neuse, White Oak and Tar-Pamlico.2