Thinking and Planning As a Watershed
As the snow melts and drains through our forests and into our waterways in the coming months, now is a good time of year to think about Vermont’s watersheds and why they matter.
A watershed is an area of land that drains all of its rain, stormwater, and snow into the same water body, often spanning multiple towns and even state and national borders. In Vermont, thinking at a watershed scale is a crucial part of responding to the effects of climate change. Increasing frequency of heavy rainfalls and flooding are putting our homes, farms, downtowns, roads, and water quality at risk. To reduce the damages of flooding and erosion caused by increasingly frequent major storms requires planning and infrastructure renovation throughout our watersheds, upstream and downstream, not just in the most flood-prone regions.
The High Meadows Fund, a supporting organization of the Vermont Community Foundation, promotes vibrant communities and a healthy natural environment while encouraging long-term economic vitality in Vermont. In 2015, High Meadows started a Watershed Resilience Initiative, spawning from lessons drawn from Tropical Storm Irene and participation in the Resilient Vermont Network. Through this initiative, we have made $604,000 in three phases of 18-month grants to support and learn alongside eleven different watershed groups. With this support, these groups have brought together neighboring communities to prepare for future storms together and prioritize infrastructure projects that offer the greatest benefits for every resident in their watersheds. Now five years into the work, we’ve shared a report on the High Meadows Fund's watershed web page that consolidates the learning from our partners and illustrates how some Vermont communities are preparing for the next storm.
We’re also excited to share a video from this work that captures the thinking behind effective, intentional watershed outreach, which you can watch below. The video emphasizes that building a shared understanding of watershed resilience takes extensive and creative community engagement, and that work takes time to unfold. Even as we recognize the urgent challenges that come with climate change, we must take the time to seek out the input and engagement of diverse sets of community members. Without taking that time, the solutions we develop may leave many Vermonters still vulnerable.