Section 1: The Watershed Today

The St. Clair Region Watershed is one of the most developed regions with various social and environmental factors coming into place. However, it faces challenges following encroachment on forest lands as well as increased pressure on land for settlement and development. Despite the widespread changes in climate, each watershed hold its unique set of issues, conditions, and stakeholders which call for a unique approach on how planning is done (St Clair Conservation, 2015). The area is idyllic for human settlement leading to dwindling of crucial resources in the region. There are local groups and a regulatory agency to spearhead the efforts to conserve the watershed resources. The effort to preserve the quality of groundwater is spearheaded by groups with the capacity to provide background monitoring information in regard to the quality and levels of groundwater (Holtschlag & Haack, 1996).

Section 2: St. Claire Region Watershed Resources

The watershed has diverse resources which are conserved by various local groups. Among the resources are the following:

Aquatic Life—include plants and marine animals found in lakes, rivers, and streams. The St Clair River is affected by pollutants such as toxic organics, heavy metals, and bacteria. The pollutants originate from urban centers, industrial zones, and farms as surface run off. Besides this the region also experiences sewer overflow and contaminated sediments carried into the stream during heavy rain (Spectrum Geography, Grade 5: United States of America, 2006).

Rivers and Lake Systems— The resources in the watershed are composed of water flows in rivers and lakes as well as landscape with interconnected basins. Lowland areas such as streams, lakes, and rivers, form the lowest points where the water runs (Sabatier et al., 2005).

Forests and Wetlands—with the forest cover of 11.5%, the presence of trees plays a crucial role in the provision of water systems to various watersheds in the region (Egan, 2013). There is variation in the quality and quantity of water both underground and surface waters. It is caused by the distribution of forest cover in the region and the percentage of wetland distribution.

St. Clair Region Watershed Stresses

The stresses in this watershed are as follows

Increased Agricultural Activities: This has been characterized by:

Clearing of land for agriculture: Because of the high demand for land to cultivate sugar beet, forests were cleared and wetlands drained to provide land for farming. Clearing and development of forests and wetlands became a common practice among the affluent immigrants to the region (Fogarty, 2013).

The threats from agricultural activities are mainly presented in terms of chemicals such as phosphorus and nitrogen. These chemicals have the capacity to change the alkaline or acidic content of surface water especially in areas experiencing heavy agricultural activities (O'Sullivan & Sandau, 2014).

Urbanization and industrialization of St Clair County: Michigan and the surrounding areas have recorded rapid expansion in urbanization and industrialization activities. This trend of urbanization continues today, with new structures being constantly built along the river (O'Sullivan & Sandau, 2014).

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Construction and development activities on reserved land: The border along Michigan and Ontario has witnessed a significant land development that has altered the landscape (Novotny, 2003). The development is done by clearing of trees and bushes and shrubs to make room for high-rise structures (Spectrum Geography, Grade 5: United States of America, 2006). Surface runoff: It is caused by heavy agriculture. Surface runoffs contribute to the low quality of water. The National Resource Conservation Service points to urbanization as the key contributor to the increase in runoff in watersheds with soils of high infiltration rates (Rachol & Button, 2006). Soils such as gravel, sand, and A/B types are highly infiltrated during rain as opposed to soil types such as clays and silts which normally have low infiltration capabilities (Younos & Parece, 2015).

Encroachment on floodplains: There has been encroachment on floodplain areas with the impact that during flooding, the excessive water has nowhere to go. Because of human activities, the excess water carries some of the chemicals used to farm in these areas (Sabatier et al., 2005).

Floodplains are meant to act as a retainer of floodwaters. In this way, it reduces the possible destruction from storm water from upstream, is instead abrogated. Uncontrolled storm water from upstream causes increased damage caused by flooding in floodplains, higher soil erosion, and destruction of marine habitat (Parker, Droste & Kennedy, 2008).

Pollutants from farms and industry areas: Industrial pollutants are key concerns of the sustenance of the St. Clair Region Watershed following the numerous activities in the region. This called for St Clair County Master Plan was put in place. It involved warning of the dangers of lack of regulation of pollutants from farms and industries.

Discussion of Watershed Issues

The issues facing the conservation of St Clair Region watershed include the following: Population increase: On average, the population in the area is expected to increase by about 45% by 2030 (Morton & Brown, 2011).

Regional integration: The increasing population also means that there will be a higher demand for natural resources in the watershed as well as pressure on aquatic habitat. This is likely going to cause a rift between different stakeholders as they compete to control the remaining waterways (Rheaume, Neff & Blumer, 2007).

The County has a plan to warning of the dangers of lack of regulation of pollutants from farms and industries especially in neighborhoods that are highly developed.

Recommendations

  • Address the issue of encroachment on wetlands
  • Reduce pollutants from farms and industries
  • Introduce afforestation management
  • Encourage collaboration by stakeholders

Conclusion

The St Clair Region Watershed is one of the largest fresh water surfaces in the world. This region is remarkably endowed with a diverse range of resources and groups dedicated to the conservation of the waterways and other natural features in the watershed. In order to achieve efficiency in the management of the watershed, relevant authorities subdivided the watershed into small watersheds.

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