When John Wesley Powell proposed in the late 19th century that state borders be defined around watersheds to form citizen-managed “hydrologic commonwealths,” he was responding not just to what would make the most sense ecologically, but also to what land divisions would mean for social equity given the extremely uneven spread of natural resources across the U.S.
State borders probably aren’t going to change—though it’s fun to imagine they might. Still, this sort of conceptual thinking isn’t for naught, as Australia shows. Victoria and New South Wales both have Catchment Management Authorities that correspond to watersheds boundaries within their borders. The authorities work with land owners and dole out funds to protect soil and water quality, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services.