Watershed Watchers

The Watershed Watchers program is a partnership of the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program (SCVURPPP), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society.

The purpose of the Watershed Watchers program and SCVURPPP is to prevent urban runoff pollution (pollution coming from a myriad of sources, such as oils from vehicles, detergents from washing things outside, litter, and pet waste) and increase the surrounding communities’ knowledge of such pollution, and how to reduce its harmful effects through personal behavior.

This purpose is accomplished through many avenues, with the most popular being the interpretive programs offered at the Environmental Education Center.

Programs such as bird watching and photography, night sky parties, owl programs, bacteria programs, and others, give visitors an introduction to local wildlife and how they are directly affected by our actions. One of our programs, Water, Water, Everywhere delves into everything water related, from the water cycle, to how much potable water is on this planet, to building a personal watershed model, complete with mountains and rainfall.

Outreach is also an important component to spreading the message of pollution prevention, with visits to local libraries, sciences fairs, and other environmental organizations. Community service projects allow participants to really make a difference, removing invasive plants, learning about native gardening and eliminating the use of pesticides and other chemicals. Partnerships with other like-minded organizations, such as the City of San Jose, Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, and the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, help further our reach to different areas of the community.

Highlights include large scale events such as South Bay Bird Fest, Shark Day, and Spooky Slough. These events often attract hundreds of visitors, who learn about local birds, sharks, and nocturnal wildlife. Activities are geared toward teaching people about the impact to local wildlife. California Coastal Cleanup Day and National River Cleanup Day get local communities involved in stewardship and are opportunities to help spread the message of preventing urban runoff pollution.

The Watershed Watchers program has been a vital part of the Environmental Education Center’s success, putting on great programs for the public, and giving the community opportunities to learn about urban runoff pollution and then make better choices in their everyday lives to help local wildlife and in turn, help improve their own quality of life as well.

Watching Our Watersheds

A powerful, interactive and free educational tool is now available for educators everywhere, and for visitors to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re curious about the creeks, baylands, and urban drainage networks, or would like to teach your students about the local watershed, this computer program using satellite technology may be just the tool.

Watching Our Watersheds (WOW) is a project to map the creeks, urban drainage networks, watersheds, baylands, and points of interest in Santa Clara Valley. Anyone can now download these maps and view them interactively through Google Earth.

These maps have many layers including past landscapes of the San Francisco Bay. With WOW you can compare the waterways and habitats of the late 1800s to the present-day landscape. Within the maps exist points of interest such as diaries of Forty Niners who stopped in San José on their way to and from the gold mines, lists of birds and plants from early botanists and ornithologists, and some of the earliest landscape photography taken in the state. Archives were searched for every photograph, map, and manuscript revealing aspects of the Santa Clara Valley’s former ecological landscape. Each map comes with a User’s Guide to navigating in Google Earth and answers to FAQs about the WOW project and the individual layers in the map. The maps cover western, central and southern Santa Clara County.

This interactive program allows educators to show pathways of urban runoff and teach about watershed health. Currently, the Living Wetlands program uses WOW in the classroom to locate the student’s school to show what watershed they are in, the closest water body to the school, and the type of historical habitat they are in. It is used to teach what urban runoff is and ways to reduce it. Intern Diane Luu observed that when WOW was presented in the classroom, &quo;the kid’s eyes lit up just being able to see an aerial view of their school. It really tied in everything the students had been learning about watersheds and helped create the connection of personal responsibility&quo;. Students and teachers can add their own points of interest and personalize their own watershed map.

Go to the Santa Clara Valley Water District Website and begin using this great resource!

You can also visit the new computer station at the Environmental Education Center in Alviso. With touch screen capabilities you can locate your home, find your local wastewater treatment plant, or follow the storm drain in front of your school. The kiosk also offers information on storm water pollution prevention and history of the bay. The kiosk even features endangered species and illustrate where certain endemic and native species can be found.

The watershed maps were prepared by Fugro Consultants, Inc. with the San Francisco Estuary Institute, the Oakland Museum of California, CLEAN South Bay, and many other collaborators and colleagues. Major funding was provided by the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society, along with Santa Clara Valley Water District, Committee for Green Foothills, City of Palo Alto, Santa Clara County Creeks Coalition, and Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program.

For western Alameda County watershed maps in the Google Earth format, check out the Oakland Museum of California’s web site.

Watershed Watchers Program Coordinator
Hope Presley
(408) 262-5513 extn 104