Know Your Watershed

I attended D Magazine’s ‘Envisioning the Trinity’ event Wednesday night and my intent was to follow up this week with a blog that simplifies the all the technical details about the Balanced Vision Plan. That’s still on the way but something struck me about the event that I think is more important to address. There were close to 300 people at the event and clearly they are all passionate about the Trinity River. Looking around the auditorium I recognized journalists, attorneys, public relations specialists, photographers, and a handful of engineers like myself. It occurred to me that out of all of those people maybe 4 or 5 people in the room have taken a class in hydrology. I might be overestimating.

Much of the discussion on Wednesday night focused on how the proposed Trinity Park would be affected by sediment, trash, and all of the other pollutants in the Trinity River, particularly after a flood event. Don Raines, the landscape architect who guided the development landscape plan for the Balanced Vision Plan made a salient point responding to questions about how the park would be maintained. He said ‘we have to understand that everything that happens outside of the levees will significantly impact what is inside the levees.’ Basically, we need to better manage all of the watersheds that contribute flow to the Trinity River if we expect to improve the health of the river itself. This sounds easy enough but what if most of these people who are passionate about improving the Trinity River don’t really know what a watershed is? What if they don’t even know what watershed they live in? It’s not an easy thing to know in North Texas because we’ve buried or hidden most of the creeks over the years and unless you have a general understanding of hydrology, you probably aren’t going to try and find out.

If the majority of the passionate public doesn’t know what watershed they live and work in, we are going to be forever challenged to create real progress in improving water quality.  We at VERDUNITY believe that we have an obligation to improve the way we communicate the often complicated and technical engineering issues related to regional stormwater management. We’re going to start by developing an ongoing series that we’ll call “Know Your Watershed." This will be a series of simple maps that highlight significant watersheds in the North Texas region so you can easily determine which watershed is yours to promote taking care of. The first in the series of watersheds is one of the most significant in Dallas—the White Rock Lake watershed. It covers about 100 square miles (64,000 acres) and stretches from the headwaters of White Rock Creek in Frisco to the dam at White Rock Lake. The health of White Rock Lake is directly impacted by how we manage or don’t manage stormwater within the entirety of the outlined area.

White Rock Lake Watershed

Click here for a PDF of the White Rock Lake watershed.

We’ll continue to update the Know Your Watershed series and provide links to download PDF versions as the library grows. If you would like to request a map of your watershed of choice, please drop us a note. 

Spillway at White Rock Lake

Spillway at White Rock Lake


Mikel Wilkins, P.E., ENV-SP is a Senior Associate at VERDUNITY, Inc. He works with local agencies, developers and philanthropic groups to create public spaces that improve water quality, mitigate flooding impacts and enhance quality of life.

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