It’s All Connected: Watershed Protection and a Quick Look at a Lesser Known Book by Dr. Seuss*

*At least when compared with The Cat in the Hat!

By Kristina Heinemann

McElligot's Pool

McElligot’s Pool

What did Dr. Seuss know about watershed management? Clearly something – perhaps more than we know!

One of my favorite books as a child was McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss. Over the years I have come to realize that it’s not one of the better known Dr. Seuss books. A recent visit to my local library confirmed this. When I asked the children’s librarian to help me find a copy of the book, she was slightly puzzled – a Dr. Seuss book that she was not familiar with? It hardly seemed possible! But it was there in the library.

The book is a conversation between a boy, Marco, who is fishing, and a farmer when they meet on the banks of McElligot’s Pool. The conversation begins …

Young man, laughed the farmer You’re sort of a fool
You’ll never catch fish
In McElligot’ s Pool
The pool is too small
And you might as well know it

 When people have junk

Here’ s the place that they throw it!

You might catch a boot
Or you might catch a can
You might catch a bottle
But listen young man
If you sat 50 years
With your worms and your wishes You’d grow a long beard Before you’d catch fishes. Hmmm answered Marco
It may be you’re right
I’ve been here three hours Without one single bite. There might be no fish.
But again, well there might. Cuz you can never tell
What goes on below
This pool might be bigger Than you or I know….

“This pool might be bigger than you or I know.” Marco is onto something here. And what a mind Marco has! The richness of Marco’s imagination will amaze you as you read through to the end of the book. In addition to all the amazing underwater places and creatures Marco dreams up, Marco is saying something important about water quality management and protection. It is all connected.

Marco is describing a watershed and how it functions through connections between surface water, ground water, coastal waters, and ultimately the open ocean. The EPA has incorporated the watershed concept into many of its water quality protection programs. You may have heard about the EPA’s efforts to restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. This watershed includes seven states and the District of Columbia and extends into our region through the Susquehanna River. Farming practices in the Upper Susquehanna Basin in central New York State affect water quality clear down to the Maryland and Virginia shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Farmers in the Upper Susquehanna watershed in New York State are installing conservation practices on their land to reduce runoff laden with pollutants that ultimately would affect downstream water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

So take care of your local rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, and pools, “cuz you never can tell what goes on below, this pool might be bigger than you or I know …”

About the Author: Kristina works in the Clean Water Division and the Watershed Management Branch of EPA Region 2 where she focuses on water quality issues related to decentralized wastewater treatment and agriculture. One of her favorite books as a child was “McElligot’s Pool” published in 1947 by Theodor Seuss Geisel otherwise known as Dr. Seuss.  

Getting Involved


Become a volunteer monitor. Monitor water quality conditions, build community awareness about water pollution, and help identify and restore problem sites. Visit EPA’s directory of volunteer monitoring programs or learn how to start out in volunteer monitoring.

Organize your own trash cleanup (or join a nationwide river cleanup campaign (National Rivers Cleanup ) or an international beach cleanup campaign (International Coastal Cleanup ).

Build a Rain Garden : Rain gardens planted with native vegetation help reduce the adverse effects of storm water runoff by soaking up excess rainwater.

Organize a Storm Drain Marking Project: Rain water that flows into storm drains goes untreated to nearby streams, lakes, and bays. Produce a flyer or door hanger to encourage pollution prevention. Visit EPA’s Stormwater Web site for educational materials that can be downloaded or ordered for free.

Greenscape Your Yard: GreenScaping is a set of landscaping practices that can improve your lawn and garden while protecting and preserving natural resources.

Educate Your Community About Water Quality Protection: Use this collection of Public Service Announcements and downloads from effective advertising campaigns to raise awareness about water pollution and stormwater runoff.

Advocate for Low Impact Development in Your Community: Low Impact Development is an approach to land development (or re-development) that works with nature to manage the adverse impacts of storm water.

Start a Watershed Organization: If you are interested in starting your own watershed organization with partnerships, organizational priorities, a watershed plan and more, here are some things to consider before you get started.

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