Clean Ocean Action


Did you know that just like you have a home address (i.e., number, street, city, state, zipcode), you have a watershed address?  A watershed is an area of land that drains to a waterway.  It is important to know your watershed address to "know the flow" of water -- whether it be from rain or landscaping -- from your property.

Using the latest powerful GIS mapping tools, we can better understand how water flows all around us and how it can easily become contaminated.  Small changes in human habits can go a long way to improve water quality on its journey to the ocean!

Sample water address:  Preservation Place Princeton, NJ ---> Stony Brook Tributary ---> Stony Brook ---> D and R Canal ---> Carnegie Lake ---> Millstone River- ---> Raritan River- ---> Raritan Bay ---> Atlantic Ocean

To better see where you fit into your watershed, follow these instructions.  Since the mapping tools are so sophisticated and contain so much data, a bit of patience is required to become accustomed to the maps that you will see.  Once you work with the map for a bit, you will feel more comfortable and will find your water’s way to the ocean with confidence!

1.      Go to:

2.      Once there, type an address into the “Find surfacewater or place” search bar and click enter.  A black dot will appear at the address.

3.      Zoom in and out using the plus and minus (+/-) keys on the left side of the map.  This will orient you to the area around your address.

4.      In the navigation pane to the left of the map “Feature Layers” is selected. Click on the tiny, right-facing arrow to the left of “Featured Layers” where “Surface Water Features” will be selected.  Click on the tiny, right-facing arrow to the left of “Surface Water Features”“Streams” will be selected.  Click in the box to the left of “Flow Direction” to select it as well.

5.      Look back on the map where you will see small black arrows which show the direction of the flow of water through the waterways that follow the high and low spots in the topography.  You may need or want to zoom in and out a bit to see more or fewer arrows. 

6.      Next, look at the icons on top of the map to the right.  Click on the second one from the left, the “Drainage Area Delineation” button.  In that box:

·         Pull down the “Stream Selection Type” menu and select “Downstream Main Path Only”.

·         Under “Starting Point”, click the left icon and drag the pin to the point on the map showing your address.

·         Change “Maximum Distance” from 15 to 25.

·         Click “Show Selected Streams”.

·         Click “Execute”. (You may need to scroll the screen to see the Execute button.  This feature will take a moment to load.)

7.      Look back at the map where your “Waterway Drainage Area” is now highlighted.  The tiny black arrows show the water flow into the area.  The line highlighted yellow shows the “Downstream Main Path” of water flowing out of the sub-watershed into the larger waterways that lead to the ocean.

8.      Zoom in and out to follow the arrows.  A difficulty of this program is that the waterway names are infrequently written, and you will need to be zoomed in quite a bit to see them.  As you play with the zoom and drag the map around in the viewing area, you will get more comfortable.  Follow the waterways as they get larger and larger as they approach the ocean!


An Albatross is pictured with a belly full of plastics. The Albatross lives his life primarily at sea and has become the poster child of plastic injestion. Photo courtesy of C. Fackler.

Resources for Educators

Following are a list of curricula and activities designed for teachers wishing to integrate environmental education into their classrooms. All resources are free unless otherwise specified.


Click on the topic you're interested in to be linked to resources about it.   


Marine Debris  




Reuse of Garbage






Watersheds/Non-point Source Pollution


Oil Pollution


Suggestions for School Projects


If you have suggestions for lesson plans or activities not included on this page, please email us and let us know. You can also register for additional materials as part of COA's Virtual Teach-In

Marine debris pollutes the Normandy Beach shoreline during a garbage slick in 2007.

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