Watershed Management

In cities across the country, hard surfaces like roads and buildings prevent rain and snowmelt from soaking into the ground. It is instead collected by storm drains on roads and in parking lots where a series of underground pipes takes the water to a local stream. The water used inside your house (wastewater) is treated, rain and snow melt (stormwater) are not. As stormwater flows across parking lots and roads, it collect things. This means that anything you see that accumulates on the ground including pollutants such as trash, pet waste, cigarette butts, etc., gets washed into streams when it rains.

While one cigarette butt tossed from a car may seem innocent or dog poop left in your own backyard harmless, they are not. They add to everyone else’s cigarette butts and dogs' poop, joining grass clippings, oil from cars, pesticides, and many other pollutants in streams. This stormwater pollution is the biggest threat to streams in Bowie, the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay where it accumulates. The same thing is happening in bodies of water in communities across the country. 

All the land that drains to a particular body of water is called a watershed. Watersheds can become significantly degraded by stormwater pollution, and the City is tasked with preventing this. The Maryland Department of the Environment regulates stormwater pollution, and the City is required, under a permit with MDE, to improve stream quality by removing as many pollutants as possible. We do this through a number of programs that fall into the heading watershed management.

Part of watershed management is structural work under the City’s Capital Projects program. This includes upgrading older stormwater ponds and implementing stream restoration projects. But the most efficient and inexpensive way to minimize stream pollution is to simply prevent it. This is where the other part of watershed management comes in – pollution prevention. Below are summaries of our programs and links to get more information for what you can do to contribute to the solution rather than increasing stormwater pollution.

City Efforts to Manage  Watersheds and Combat Stormwater Pollution

The City takes a two-pronged approach to preventing stormwater pollution: capital projects and pollution prevention. Under the Capital Projects program, older stormwater ponds are upgraded, and streams are restored. But the most efficient and inexpensive way to minimize stream pollution is to simply prevent it, through education and community involvement. 

Capital Projects

These large, expensive construction projects are required by the City’s stormwater permit (officially known as an NPDES MS4 permit) from the Maryland Department of the Environment. These projects include work in neighborhoods or along stream channels. Visit the City's Capital Projects page for more details.

Encouraging Pollution Prevention at Home

The goal is to reduce the amount of rainwater and pollution that runs directly off your property and into streams and other bodies of water. By installing rain barrels and reducing the amount of hard surfaces on your property, more rainwater can soak into the ground. Washing your car or working on your car on the grass rather than on a hard surface allows fluids or dirty water to soak into the ground. Having native landscaping rather than lawns can reduces the need for harmful chemicals to maintain the lawn

Volunteer Programs

Want to do more? The City offers a few volunteer programs aimed at improving water quality. Click on the name of each to learn more: Adopt-a-Road program, Weed Warrior workday, stream cleanups

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the City's Watershed Manager, Tiffany Wright, by email or calling 301-809-3043.