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Watershed Management

A watershed is an area of land that drains to a common point such as a stream, river, pond, or lake. It can be compared to either a leaf or a funnel. The edge of a leaf defines the watershed area. Its main veins and sub veins can be equated with the watershed’s main river and its tributaries. The watershed is also like a funnel, on the other hand, that collects all water falling within it and channeling it into a discharge point/opening.  An example of a watershed is Laguna de Ba’I (see Annex A).

On a broad scale, imagine a mountain and think of the highest ridges as defining the area of the watershed. Rain and wind from the ridges carry pollutants from the sides and ridges of the mountain into the waters below.  If we, therefore, properly manage land activities from the mountain sides and areas below, we will protect the water within the watershed.  This concept is the same for any and all watersheds.

Almost every land activity by humans has the potential to affect water quality in a community.  It is important to bring the people together to address those activities, regardless of political boundaries.  By working together, they can design an integrated, holistic, and coordinated watershed management plan that builds upon the strengths of existing programs and resources, and addresses the water quality concerns in a cost-effective manner.

Environmental problems caused by human activities such as domestic and industrial wastes have polluted some major watersheds in the Philippines. Several attempts have been made to clean-up impaired bodies of water. Many of these attempts have been unsuccessful because the clean-up efforts did not recognize the fact that the specific bodies of water are a part of a watershed.  The clean-up efforts only focus on the specific river or lake that needed to be cleaned.  The upstream and other tributaries have been neglected but which are also contributors of pollutants to the river or lake.  Hence, the development of the “brick-by-brick” approach by the Lasallian Institute For the Environment (LIFE) for watershed management, where, in order to clean up a specific lake or river, the sub-basins (the major and minor tributaries that feed them) are also in most cases must first be addressed. This approach also requires stakeholders in the community to work together.

One of the processes in this “brick-by-brick” approach is community (generally at the barangay level) profiling which provides the basis for developing Natural Resources Management (NRM) plans by initially “benchmarking” the status of the environment. This, in effect, is the starting point of activities.  The community profile is a compilation of all available data and information which detail the characteristics of the community.  Each kind of data/information is a “data layer”, the aggregate of which wake up the community profile.  Examples of data layers are: population (number, distribution, composition such as number of babies, children, teenagers, adults, and elderly), housing sites, home industries, land use, rivers/streams/lakes, roads, health statistics, water supply sources, drainage flows, among others. The product is a “profile” map presenting all the data layers.  This “profile” provides the benchmark as input to NRM planning.

Though primarily done for environmental programs, there are also other significant and important benefits resulting from doing community profiling, such as:

•         Educates, through experiential learning, the community members (all stakeholders) about their community.

•      The stakeholders become more knowledgeable, aware, and form values about the environment

•      Problems other than environmental are identified (health and other community issues)

•      Cause of problems and effects of human activities are identified and understood

•      Solutions are developed and prioritized

•      Clear commitments are made

•      The programs are sustainable

•      Pool of barangay resource persons created

Definitely, time and money initially must be invested in this endeavor.  However, it facilitates future changes to the specific data/information presented in the visual product which can be updated and a “historical” database is preserved.