This paper presents an energy-efficient and coverage-preserving communication protocol which distributes a uniform energy load to the sensors in a wireless microsensor network. This protocol, called Distance-based Segmentation (DBS), is a cluster-based protocol that divides the entire network into equal-area segments and applies different clustering policies to each segment to (1) reduce total energy dissipation and (2) balance the energy load among the sensors. Therefore, it prolongs the lifetime of the network and improves the sensing coverage. Moreover, the proposed routing protocol does not need any centralized support from a certain node which is at odds with aiming to establish a scalable communication protocol. Results from extensive simulations on two different network configurations show that by lowering the number of wasteful transmissions in the network, the DBS can achieve as much as a 20% reduction in total dissipated energy as compared with current cluster-based protocols. In addition, this protocol is able to distribute energy load more evenly among the sensors in the network. Hence, it yields up to a 66% increase in the useful network lifetime. According to the simulation results, the sensing coverage degradation of the DBS is considerably slower than that of the other cluster-based protocols.