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Computer Science
CAS CS 101
Michael Manove

MEMO To: From: Mark Harpootian Date: January 30, 2014 Re: Status of the world’s largest watersheds Watersheds play an extremely vital role in the preservation of our environment. Watersheds sustain life, in more ways than one. According to the Environmental ProtectionAgency, more than $450 billion in foods, fiber, manufactured goods and tourism depend on clean, healthy watersheds. However, there is a problem with some of the world’s largest watersheds. Many of these watersheds are becoming polluted and contaminated due to sewage, climate change, and other harmful chemicals being dumped illegally. Hope for these essential water basins is not lost however; the Environmental ProtectionAgency as many other environmental relief group around the world are working to preserve the watersheds. Awatershed, also called a "drainage basin,” is defined as: “an area in which all water flowing into it goes to a common outlet, such as the same estuary or reservoir. Watersheds themselves consist of all surface water and include lakes, streams, reservoirs and wetlands, as well as all groundwater and aquifers (What Is a Watershed).” The water from a watershed originates from precipitation (See Figure 1). There are multiple types of watersheds, all based on how they are divided. One divide, called the continental divide, is when the water flows down the watershed on two sides into the ocean. The water can also drain to different sides of the watershed and then reconnect at a later point. This is called a minor drainage divide; an example of this would be the Mississippi River, the largest watershed in the U.S. The top three largest watersheds in the world are theAmazon River, Congo River, and the Nile River, followed by the Mississippi River at fourth largest (Watersheds Of The World). Watersheds are important because they are used for drinking water, irrigation, industrial activities, manufactured, goods, and even recreation/tourism (See Figure 2). Aside from humans needing these freshwater basins, animals and plants need them to survive as well. Watersheds provide a major life source for the natural ecosystem (The Importance of Watersheds). Urbanization and industrialization have been some of the main reasons why watersheds are being polluted. People have been dumping waste and other materials into these watersheds, causing unusable water. Urbanization has changed the way that water flows into the watershed, causing depletion of the size of the watersheds. Urbanization is responsible for many of the sources that contribute to waterway degradation in the world’s streams. Increases in impervious surface area and runoff have negative effects on stream flow (Water ResourcesAgency). Factories have a tendency to dump their waste into the rivers and lakes through pipes; this is called point source pollution. Factories usually funnel their waste into the watersheds through a pipe leading directly to the water. Non-point source pollution is the human activities that cause contamination in the watersheds. Examples of this non-point source pollution are: overuse of pesticides, failure to pick up after pets, dumping things down storm drains, and washing cars on the street or in the driveway. Storm drains usually lead to the freshwater source, so dumping harmful chemicals down these drains really hurts the watersheds (Watershed Issues). Climate change is also a very large reason why some of the world’s largest watersheds are being polluted. Because of all of the greenhouse gasses and other toxins are causing outrageous and sporadic weather changes, watersheds are being affected. Acid rain pollutes these water basins, as well as the bipolar rain trends. In some places, it rains so much that watersheds flood into cities and ot
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