What is a watershed?

Figure 1. A watershed is the land area that drains to a body of water. Small creeks and streams have small watersheds and flow together to form larger rivers with basins comprised of those small watersheds. (Source: Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality)
Figure 1. A watershed is the land area that drains to a body of water. Small creeks and streams have small watersheds and flow together to form larger rivers with basins comprised of those small watersheds. (Source: Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality)
Figure 2. Hydrologic unit codes (HUC) 8s watersheds nested in HUC 6s of Tennessee
Figure 2. Hydrologic unit codes (HUC) 8s watersheds nested in HUC 6s of Tennessee

A watershed is the land area that drains to a body of water. Like puzzle pieces that fit together to create a larger picture, small creeks and streams have small watersheds that fit together along ridges and form larger watersheds or river basins.

Why are watersheds important?

Watersheds show us the connection between land and water. The topography of the landscape defines how water moves through it. Another term for watershed is hydrologic unit. The nature and quality of a waterbody reflects that of the land that drains to it. 

What is your Watershed Address?

You probably already know which large river basin you live in, but do you know your small creek watershed? Just as cities and towns are located in counties and states, small watersheds are nested together to comprise larger river basins.

Hydrologic Unit Codes, or “HUCs,” are sequences of numbers used to describe watersheds in terms of scale. Large river basins (like the Mississippi River) are described with 2-digit HUCs. These 2-digit HUCs are comprised of river basins that are described with 4- and 6-digit HUCs. Small creeks and streams are described with 12-digit HUCs.

Just as your home has a physical mailing address with a street, city and state, it also and has a “watershed address” that reflects where your home lies in the mosaic of watersheds. Find your Tennessee Watershed Address (HUC12 watershed, and HUC8 river basin) with this interactive Story Map Activity.


Figure 3. Screenshot of Story Map page found at https://tiny.utk.edu/watershedaddress.

Find your “Watershed Address.

1. Visit the Watersheds Story Map.


2. Use the locate button, search for street address in the search bar, or scroll to zoom in to your property.


3. Click on the map at location to open a dialogue box with information on your “Watershed Address,” as a creek watershed as part of a larger river basin.   


4. Enter your watershed names to be included in the word cloud. For example, for the location in selected in Figure 3, you would enter “Third” and “UpperTennessee.”

Populate the Watershed Word Cloud.

The word cloud below is a compilation of all the watershed addresses entered here. Have your watersheds included by submitting them with one of these options:


By Text: Send a text to the number 22333. In the body of the text, type “aludwig001” and then the watershed names excluding “creek” and “river” or other descriptors like “Upper.”


Or by Website: Enter each unique watershed name separately by text or at the website.



Share with Others Your Watershed Address

Help raise awareness about watersheds by adding your “Watershed Address” to your email signature or letterhead, just as you include your physical mailing address.

Watershed Address - Figure 4. Example of how to include watershed address information into an email signature, helping to raise awareness among our communities with each email sent.
Figure 4. Example of how to include watershed address information into an email signature, helping to raise awareness among our communities with each email sent.

Instructions for using these resources with your group

Resources for Watershed and Water Quality Information: