Back to Top

Resource Links

Information on the "resouce links" pages covers topics discussed during or related to service learning projects and work days. Please refer to your instructor's guidelines for specific requirements regarding course paper research.

CEES maintains these pages:

Below is some background information on watersheds, water quality and invasive species to get you started.


What are Watersheds?

Where does the water in our rivers and streams come from? The short answer is that it comes from upstream. More specifically it comes from precipitation that falls within Indiana Watersheds. A watershed, also known as a drainage basin, is the area of land that drains into a body of water. It is separated from other systems by high points in the area such as hills or slopes. It includes not only the waterway itself, but also the entire land area that drains into it. The map below shows the major watersheds in Indiana, typically named after the primary lake or stream that drains them. For example, the water flowing in the White River in downtown Indianapolis comes from the upper part of the West Fork White River Watershed, shown in yellow. Consequently, the quality and quantity of the water in the White River is heavily influenced by what happens upstream in cities like Anderson, Muncie, Carmel, and Fishers, as well as on the land surrounding these cities. Conversely, material that enters the river in Indianapolis will affect the areas downstream of the city. 

Causes of Poor Water Quality

There are many ways that pollution can get into our waterways. Point-sources come from a specific place, such as factory wastes, landfill drainage, and municipal sewage. Most of these sources are regulated under the Clean Water Act. Indianapolis is currently working to rectify our combined sewer overflow problem, one of the remaining point sources. The other primary cause of pollution is from non-point sources. These include fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides from farm fields and lawns; salt, grease, and oil from roadways; and sediment from farming and construction, among other things.

Results of Poor Water Quality 

Excess nutrient runoff from point and nonpoint source pollutants can trigger excessive algal growth (or eutrophication) in water bodies which results in reduced sunlight, loss of aquatic habitat, and a decrease in oxygen dissolved in the water. Excess nutrients may come from a wide range of sources: runoff from developed land, atmospheric deposition, soil erosion, and agricultural fertilizers. Sewage and industrial discharges also contribute nutrients.

 

Maps of Mississippi River Watershed and Major US Watersheds

 

Mississippi River Watershed Highlighted in Yellow Subwatersheds of the Mississippi River Watershed
Ohio River Subbasin Highlighted in Yellow

Watersheds in Indiana and Illinois
White River Watershed Highlighted in Yellow

Mississippi River Watershed and Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia

What are Invasive Species?

Many environmental problems are caused or exacerbated by invasive species. Every year, millions of dollars and thousands of hours worth of manpower are put toward the tackling of this persistent concern. In Indiana, there are several plants that are the focus of our efforts. These include Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Amur Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), Purple Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei), and Privet Hedge (Ligustrum spp). Whilst still other species are making their presence known.

It is often hard to tell how a species will perform when introduced to a new environment. Each species bring its own set of characteristics to an area. When a species is introduced to an areas those same factors will determine its probability of success or failure. Factors such as growing temperature, seed size, root depth, color and many others can determine adaptability. For instance, a plant may grow many fruits but be poisonous to existing wildlife and therefore not spread seed well. Many species are capable of happily coexisting with native wildlife only to become aggressive at a later time.

Amur Bush Honeysuckle is one such example. This plant was promoted by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to prevent erosion and for highway beautification. The plant is fast growing and promised to hold soil onto the landscape preventing soil loss and thereby reducing pollution and increasing water health. After years of observation, it turns out that bush honeysuckle actually increases the rate of erosion and has been targeted for removal ever since.

Service learning projects that focus on invasive removal are some of the most valuable and immediately gratifying projects one can engage in. Removing the invasives allows the natives to restore themselves and contribute to the health of our Indiana watersheds once again. For more information on Non-Native Invasive Species in Indiana please visit our external links page.