Whenever it rains, I can hear the drops slap against the roof of my 100-year-old house in Richmond, Virginia. The water runs off my roof, into the gutter, and then down the spouts into my garden. I’ve sometimes wondered – where does the water go from there?

You can find out by understanding where you are in your watershed. A watershed is not a building, like many people think by its name. Instead, it’s a region of land where all water drains to a common point. Think of it like a bathtub. Anything inside the bathtub – soap, water, dirt – will all go to the tub’s drain, no matter where in the tub it is. Anything outside of the tub, or a watershed, will NOT go down the drain, so it is not part of the watershed.

Now imagine a bathtub the size of a third of the state of Virginia! That’s a lot of land to drain to a single place. The James River watershed is the largest one entirely contained within Virginia. Any chemicals, fertilizers, or animal waste that washes into the river all goes to the same place, the Chesapeake Bay. You can understand that it would be important to keep these pollutants all over the watershed from washing to the ‘drain’.

What is YOUR watershed address? You can use the Model My Watershed app, created by the Stroud Water Research Institute, to find out where your water goes. JRA has created a simple lesson plan to help you locate where the rain that falls on your house ends up.

Simple actions like planting native vegetation, storing excess runoff in rain barrels, and picking up pet waste from your yard can reduce your impact on the James River watershed. JRA’s River Hero Homes program is a great way to get involved and make a pledge to directly affect your watershed from your own house. Join my house, and hundreds of others, in being a positive force in our watershed’s health!