Definition of watershed in English:



  • 1An area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas.

    • ‘Besides being a watershed, a hill area impacts a much larger area in the plains below.’
    • ‘These included aggregations sampled along parallel watersheds in the Madawaska Highlands for examining fine geographic scale population structure.’
    • ‘In the Marin watershed on Pumpkin Ridge, Davidson showed me a site where Rizzo and other scientists had injected some healthy coast live oaks with P. ramorum.’
    • ‘The slopes of the hill on the northern and eastern sides descend sharply into the river valleys draining from the mountain watersheds of Avgo and Ayios Niketas.’
    • ‘O'Grady and Geslin were still in the lead, some hundred miles into the stage, when the peloton climbed steadily into the area known as Le Forez, the watershed between the rivers Saone and Rhone.’
    1. 1.1 An area or region drained by a river, river system, or other body of water.
      • ‘The Penobscot River drains the largest watershed in Maine and is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's flagship river for the restoration of Atlantic salmon in the country.’
      • ‘Then, about 13,000 years ago, the southern edge of the ice sheet retreated past the divide that separates the Mississippi watershed from areas that drain northward.’
      • ‘The site encompasses an entire watershed and thus provides a unique educational opportunity.’
      • ‘The Pearl River watershed includes an area containing one-eighth of mainland China's population.’
      • ‘The city council voted unanimously in July to make the entire watershed an ecological reserve.’
      • ‘What are the practices that work best within specific watersheds and regions?’
      • ‘Benefit the environment by protecting watersheds and enhancing wildlife habitats and biodiversity.’
      • ‘The proximity of the Passaic River watershed to major urban centers has led to rapid urban and suburban expansion in this region that creates increased potential for these wetlands to be further degraded.’
      • ‘These sources are particularly important because the rivers drain watersheds that don't receive much summer rainfall and where rates of evaporation are relatively high.’
      • ‘Since so little was known of the species' ecology or distribution, work concentrated in the central piedmont, especially the Broad River watershed.’
      • ‘An overpopulated forest, he insists, is an ecosystem gone wrong - a disaster for wildlife and plant diversity, a drain on watersheds, and a firestorm waiting to happen.’
      • ‘During this period of joint occupation in the Columbia River watershed, neither Great Britain nor the United States had a governmental representative in the area.’
      • ‘Bailey Woods drains southward into the Yocona River watershed.’
      • ‘My family has continuously resided in the Sun River watershed since the 1870s.’
      • ‘It is the largest river between the great Niger and Congo rivers, and its watershed drains the whole of Gabon.’
      • ‘The ecosystem analyses have since expanded to look at regions - the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Puget Sound, and the Denver / Front Range area.’
      • ‘The objective of this study was to characterize the vegetation of forested floodplain wetlands along a 66 km stretch of river within the upper Passaic River watershed.’
      • ‘During the last 10 years he has moved on to restoring the entire watershed.’
      • ‘We can do this while protecting critical watersheds, forest aesthetics and wildlife.’
      • ‘Opponents of the project worry the resulting salty waste water will find its way into the local watershed and into river systems leading south into Montana.’
  • 2An event or period marking a turning point in a course of action or state of affairs.

    ‘these works mark a watershed in the history of music’
    • ‘This article argues that the 1997 crisis signifies an important watershed in modern Korean economic history.’
    • ‘Earle thinks this fall's election will be a watershed in civic politics.’
    • ‘Naturalization rates increased during the 1920s, but the next decade was marked by a political watershed.’
    • ‘In mythic terms, though, the destruction of the Second Temple was a watershed event in Jewish history - the most decisive since Moses came down from Mt. Sinai.’
    • ‘The decade of the 1960s marks a watershed in the history of American ethnic relations.’
    • ‘The Year of the Four Emperors marks a real watershed in the history of the Empire.’
    • ‘The Toronto meeting, attended by 48 nations, was the major political watershed.’
    • ‘We serve in our military today at a watershed event in the history of modern warfare.’
    • ‘Arnold's response to that question was a watershed moment in his political life.’
    • ‘The cabinet meeting tonight marks something of a watershed for all involved in the Lydiard Park restoration project because at one stage it looked as if it would stutter to a halt.’
    • ‘They mark 1973 as the watershed year in American economy, when the U.S. started lowering import tariffs from 40 per cent to the current average of five per cent.’
    • ‘The arrival of mass consumerism is perhaps the major watershed in European social history between the middle and end of the twentieth century.’
    • ‘The 19th Century marked a watershed in the art history of India.’
    • ‘This election could prove to be a watershed in modern Canadian politics.’
    • ‘The year 2000 is shaping up to be another historic watershed.’
    • ‘Publication of this story marks a watershed in American political history.’
    • ‘Well, I think it was a historic watershed.’
    • ‘This essay starts from the observation that the 1993 general election marked a major watershed in Canadian party politics.’
    • ‘For the last week or more, Taiwan has been in the throes of the early stages of a major, perhaps a watershed, political scandal.’
    • ‘The Kosovo War was a watershed event that profoundly changed the political situation.’
    critical moment, decisive moment, crossroads, crisis, climacteric, moment of truth
    View synonyms


Early 19th century: from water + shed in the sense ‘ridge of high ground’ (related to shed), suggested by German Wasserscheide.