Surface Water Quality

​​The Water Cycle & Watersheds

The Water Cycle

The Water Cycle is a great place to start teaching kids how rain is connected to stormwater, streams, rivers, lakes and even the water in our homes!

Water Cycle Resources

Three water cycle questions for kids:

  • Where does the rain go when it hits the street outside of our house?
  • How does the path of water in the water cycle change when we have a lot of impervious surface covering the ground? 
    (Impervious surface doesn't allow water to soak into the ground. i.e. roads, sidewalks, rooftops)
  • How is rain connected to the water we drink?​


A watershed is an area of land where all the
rain drains to one body of water.

Rain falls everywhere, so we all live in a watershed! The name of the watershed changes depending on the name of the stream, river, or lake where rain eventually flows. Rain and stormwater runs downhill and comes together in creeks, rivers, lakes, and eventually the ocean.

A watershed can be very large or very small. For example, all the land that drains to a river or lake would be quite large while all the land that drains to a small creek or pond would be relatively smaller.

Here is a watershed poster and some activities to help you teach kids in elementary and middle school about watersheds: Watersheds - Poster and Activities. Use this poster to teach watershed concepts like:

  • All water flows downhill but that's not always south!
  • Topography determines which way rain, streams and rivers flow.
  • Rain flows into streams, which flows into rivers and lakes, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

Here's a short Watershed videothat reinforces watershed concepts.

There are 17 river watersheds in NC and Charlotte and Mecklenburg County contains parts of two river watersheds– the Catawba River and Yadkin River Watersheds. This interactive map of ​NC Watersheds will help you identify which river watershed you live in. In Mecklenburg County rainwater either flows to the southwest towards the Catawba River or it flows to the southeast towards the Yadkin River. Here's a map of Mecklenburg County's River Watersheds . Here are three resources that will help students learn more about the unique ecology, environmental concerns and success of our local river watersheds:

There are also 22 creek watersheds in Mecklenburg County. Find out the name of the local creek watershed where you live through Mecklenburg County's Interactive Geoportal. Click on "Environment" and enter your address. You'll find the name of the creek watershed where you live. You can also zoom out on this map and find a park downstream of your creek. Take the kids there for a fun day at the park and be sure to let them know that the creek in the park is where rain from the neighborhood goes.