Clean water is one of our most precious natural resources. Harvesting trees for paper production affects water negatively in two ways:
Once trees are removed, there are no roots to hold soil in place. When it rains, the soil flows downhill into streams, lakes, and eventually the ocean, where it sinks to the bottom covering up algae and small plants that fish eat.
Making paper from trees uses a lot of fresh water. After the water is used in the paper-making factory, it is full of toxic chemicals and not safe to go back into the local waterways without being cleaned.
If every person in San Mateo County recycled one piece of paper, it would save nearly 3,000 gallons of water. Just think of how much water you are saving by recycling every sheet of paper that you use.
This picture of the water (hydrologic) cycle shows how our planet recycles water.
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Just like in the picture, San Mateo County is divided by a mountain range, called the Santa Cruz Mountains. Most of the rain falls in the higher elevations of these mountains which rise up to 2,000 feet. From the mountains, water flows down toward the Pacific Ocean to the west as you see in this picture, and toward the San Francisco Bay to the east. Because the water never really goes away, it is important that it is kept clean and pure.
To understand how the water collects and flows in San Mateo County you need to look at the watersheds. A watershed is an area of land where all of the water that drains off of it or is under it goes into the same place. Find the watershed that you live in using this map of all 34 watersheds in San Mateo County. The picture below illustrates a typical watershed.
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