Alabama Aquatic Resources Education
Learn about Interactions between Watersheds, Aquatic Habitats, and Aquatic Species through this Web Site and Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Programs, such as Creek Kids at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park.
Alabama has an abundance of aquatic resources, both in term of area and in terms of types. Rainfall statewide is one of the highest in the United States. Alabama has a high number of geographically separate river basins, which give distinct species opportunities to flourish. Alabama has five distinct geographic regions, which give unique characteristics to the streams in each region. Add to that coastal and marine resources, and Alabama has diverse aquatic resources.
Alabama averages 55 inches of rain each year.
This map lists fourteen major watershed in Alabama:
Tennessee, Upper Tombigbee, Black Warrior, Cahaba, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Lower Tombigbee, Alabama, Escambia (Conecuh, Blackwater and Yellow), Choctawhatchee, Apalachicola (Chattahoochee), Escatawpa, Mobile, and Perdido.
Alabama has five major geographic regions:
Highland Rim, Cumberland Plateau, Alabama Valley and Ridge, Piedmont, and East Gulf Coastal Plain.
Rivers and Streams of Alabama
by Maurice F. Mettee, Wiley P. Henderson, Jr., and Gary W. Crawford of the Alabama Geological Survey
Alabama is drained by some 77,242 miles of perennial [61%] and intermittent streams [39%]. Its 15 river systems plus the Mobile Delta and Bay tributaries can be classified into three major drainage groups [Tennesee, Coastal and Mobile]. The Tennessee River system flows from east to west across northern Alabama and drains approximately 6,826 mi² or 13 percent of the state’s 52,231 mi² surface area. Seven coastal drainages originate in southern Alabama and flow into either Mississippi or Florida. The Escatawpa River enters the Pascagoula Bay system in southeastern Mississippi. The Perdido River enters the Perdido Bay system in northwestern Florida. The Conecuh, Blackwater and Yellow rivers (Escambia Basin) enter the Pensacola Bay system. The Choctawhatchee and Pea rivers enter the Choctawhatchee Bay system. The Chipola River in southeastern Alabama joins the Chattahoochee River in northwestern Florida to become part of the Apalachicola Bay system.
The Mobile River basin, one of the largest drainage systems east of the Mississippi River, is formed from the junction of two major tributaries that together drain 43,662 mi² in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee (33,332 mi² in Alabama). The western Mobile River basin is comprised of the upper and lower Tombigbee and Black Warrior rivers. The eastern Mobile River basin includes the Alabama River system and its three major tributaries, the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Cahaba river systems. The lower Tombigbee and Alabama rivers join to form the Mobile River, which flows for only a few miles before it splits into the Tensaw and Mobile rivers. Linked by an interwoven network of tributaries, the Mobile and Tensaw form the Mobile Delta that flows into Mobile Bay. The Alabama, Black Warrior and Cahaba are the only river systems that arise and remain entirely within state boundaries.
Sixteen locks and dams on the Tennessee, Tombigbee (upper and lower), Black Warrior, Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers provide approximately 1,438 miles of navigable waterways within Alabama [first in the nation]. Eight additional locks and dams completed as part of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Mississippi increased the total number to 24. Hydroelectric power is generated at five navigational locks and dams and 16 hydroelectric dams. Although most major rivers in Alabama have been modified, generally good to excellent surface-water quality provides excellent opportunities for sport and commercial fishing, recreational boating, camping and sightseeing.
Tremendous volumes of surface water are transported through Alabama’s rivers and streams. A water budget compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1987 indicates that approximately 38,600 million gallons enter Alabama daily from adjacent states. Precipitation contributes an additional 135,000 million gallons daily of which 81,100 is lost to evapotranspiration. Industry, mining and other manufacturing operations remove some 541 million gallons per day as consumptive water use. The total volume of surface water leaving Alabama each day is estimated at 92,000 million gallons. An additional 3,640 million gallons per day is discharged through the Chattahoochee River system which flows along the Alabama-Georgia boundary.
Alabama's citizens are proud of their environment. Surveys of Alabama's citizens show that they are more interested in the quality of their environment than the prospect of a better job. Our environment is what sustains us. We enjoy opportunities to participate with friends and family in the outdoors. Alabamians are also proud that we have more freshwater fish species than any state, except perhaps Tennessee.
Many organizations work to keep our aquatic habitat in a natural condition. It is an ongoing labor of love. Links to some of the organizations whose work concerns aquatic habitat and stewardship are available.
What can you do? Some simple ways to help the aquatic environment begin with awareness that what is on the land will end up in the water. Hooked on the Alabama River says:
"Pick up after your pet. It's your duty."
When our pets leave those little surprises, rain washes all of that pet waste and bacteria into our storm drains. And then pollutes our waterways. So what to do? Simple. Dispose of it properly (preferable in the toilet). Then that little surprise gets treated like it should.
"When you're fertilizing the lawn; remember, you aren't just fertilizing the lawn."
You fertilize the lawn. Then it rains. The rain washes the fertilizer along the curb into the storm drain, and directly into our lakes, streams and bays. This causes algae to grow, which uses up oxygen that fish need to survive. So if you fertilize, please follow directions and use sparingly.
"When your car is leaking oil on the street; remember, it is not just leaking oil on the street."
Leaking oil goes from car to street. And is washed from the street into the storm drain and into our lakes, streams and bays, Now imagine the number of cars in the area and you can imagine the amount of oil that finds its way from leaky gaskets into our water. So please, fix oil leaks.
"When you're washing your car in the driveway; remember, you're not just washing your car in the driveway."
All the soap, scum, and oily grit runs along the curb, and then into the storm drain, which directly funnels water into our lakes, streams, and bays. That causes pollution which is unhealthy for fish. So how do you avoid the whole mess? Easy. Wash your car on the grass or gravel instead of the street. Or better yet, take it to a car wash where the water gets treated and recycled.
Another problem for aquatic fauna and water supplies are the disposal of pharmaceuticals. Instead of pouring down the sink or flushing, SMARxT Disposal recommends:
- Put medication in a sealable plastic bag.
- If the medication is solid, add water to dissolve the medication.
- Add coffee grounds, sawdust or kitty litter to make the mixture less appealing for pets and children.
- Seal the plastic bag and place in the trash.
- Remove ALL idnetifying personal information (prescription label) from medication containers before recycling them or putting them in the trash.