Why can’t we see our feet in the creeks anymore?
One of the major causes of decreased water clarity in the Bird River, Middle River and Tidal Gunpowder watersheds is polluted storm water runoff.
Middle River/Tidal Gunpowder Watersheds
Map High Potential Areas
Bird River Watershed
Map High Potential Areas
High volumes of runoff cause severe erosion and carry sediment and harmful pollutants (oil, gasoline, trash, lawn fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste) into storm drains that then flow untreated, directly into local waterways. Both sediment and nutrient pollutants decrease the clarity and quality of the water and cause a myriad of problems for plant, animal and human populations.
Excess sediment not only builds up in boating channels, making navigation difficult if not impossible, it also clouds out the necessary sunlight that aquatic plants and bay grasses need to flourish.
Excess nutrients from lawn and farm fertilizers and even pet waste can over- enrich Bay waters, causing algae blooms. These algae blooms deplete oxygen from the water and in turn diminish and/or destroy our crab, fish and oyster populations. Algae blooms also compete with bay grasses for sunlight and space. Decreasing grasses threaten the aquatic life, such as crabs, that depend on the bay grasses for habitat.
The ultimate result is polluted water that destroys plant and animal life in and around the water and makes it impossible for us to see our toes.
Small Watershed Action Plans (SWAPs)
A watershed is the area of land that drains water into the nearest body of water, such as a river, run, creek or stream.
In 2012, the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability commissioned an upland water pollution assessment in the fifteen sub-watersheds of the greater Middle River and Tidal Gunpowder watersheds. In 2014, they did the same for the eight sub-watersheds of the neighboring Bird River watershed.
The County published the results of these assessments in comprehensive reports, which identified sources of pollution as well as offered recommendations for addressing those sources throughout the watersheds.
The SWAP reports showed three major water quality impairments in the Bird River, Middle River and Tidal Gunpowder watersheds: excess sediment, excess nutrients, and PCBs (Poly-Chlorinated Biphenyls), which are synthetic organic compounds that are highly carcinogenic to humans and animals.
The reports also outlined goals designed to meet federal environmental standards for the Chesapeake Bay while improving the water quality, beautifying the community, and preserving the ecosystem of all three local watersheds.
The SWAP maps (at left) identify areas within the respective watersheds deemed most polluted by high volumes of storm water runoff and thus considered to hold the highest restoration potential.
For a detailed explanation of SWAP findings and preservation goals, visit the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability website at www.baltimorecountymd.gov to read the full-length reports.