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Center for the Environment at Catawba Highlights Watershed Project

04/09/16 by Guest Writer

By Hannah Davis

Growing up by the warm waters of the Florida coastline, photographer Jeff Rich developed a love for the aqueous environment. This love for the environment led to a love for capturing its beautiful elements with photography. And from his passion for photography, his passion for environmental activism and using his art to teach others about the plight of watersheds grew. This was how his Watershed Project all began, and how he ultimately ended up speaking at the Center for the Environment facility on the Catawba College campus on March 31.  

Jeff Rich is on a mission to document the Southeastern Mississippi Watershed, and that is no small task. A watershed is described as any area of land which drains into a central point, such as a river or ocean. Studying watersheds is important because possible pollutants can travel in water throughout vast land areas. The Mississippi Watershed takes up about 40 percent of the United States, taking water from as far away as Montana all the way through the Mississippi River, which dumps into the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.

Rich began this project about 10 years ago with the goal of only covering the entirety of the French-Broad Watershed, which is mostly located within the mountains of North Carolina, but he found himself wanting to expand further.

His study of the watershed focuses mostly on the impact of point source pollution, or water pollution that can be specifically pinpointed back to a source – such as a power plant or decrepit pipeline system.

Rich specifically sought to photograph the unnatural effects of some of the biggest polluters since the Clean Water Act. In a way, Rich has been seeking out the often-glossed-over industrial, “ugly side” of nature while also still trying to showcase the beauty of the life struggling to continue living despite the disturbances. On Rich’s interactive website,, he has the location of all of the images he has taken attached to the most updated aerial view of the spot where he took the photo. In some cases, the ugly, disturbed land which he photographed years ago has even started to make a green comeback. 

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