Watershed Function

What is a Watershed?

Also known as a basin or catchment, a watershed is the area of land that recieves precipitation and drains into a body of water (creek, river, lake). The boundaries of a natural watershed are defined by the elevation divide separating one watershed from another.

Surface Water 

Surface waters include lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. The science of surface water quality and aquatic ecology, also known as limnology, is practiced by biologists, chemists and engineers, and is supported by many technologists. 

Ground Water

More than 600,000 rural Albertans depend on groundwater for drinking water. Groundwater helps to maintain lake levels and river flows. To manage groundwater effectively, we need to understand its occurrence, movement and quality.


Wetlands are natural areas where water and land meet. They provide food, habitat and shelter for nearly 300 species of wildlife in Alberta. Wetlands are a critical part of much larger systems known as watersheds that move water across the land.

Riparian Zone

A riparian area is defined as the strip of moisture-loving vegetation growing along the edge of a natural water body. The exact boundary of the riparian area is often difficult to determine because it is a zone of transition between the water body and the upland vegetation. A riparian management zone usually extends from the water's edge to the upland area.

Landuse Impact on Watershed Function