The Watershed Management and Monitoring Section is responsible for the following:
- National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit Compliance—Protect water resources from polluted stormwater runoff by coordinating Baltimore County compliance with the NPDES MS4 permit. Track progress on permit requirements, such as the impervious surface restoration for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. Prepare and issue reports required by law and permit. View the Water Quality Dashboard, which displays waterway monitoring results collected routinely by the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability.
- Watershed Monitoring—Monitors the living resources, chemical, habitat and erosion condition of Baltimore County's streams and tidal rivers. Data collected includes biology, chemistry, geomorphology, storm drain outfall discharge pipes, bacteria and trash.
- Watershed Planning—Monitoring data is used to assess watershed conditions and used to develop strategies and plans to protect and restore water quality, including meeting local and Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), so Baltimore County can enjoy safe and affordable drinking water, healthy fisheries, safe water recreation and healthy aquatic wildlife. These strategies go beyond traditional government capital projects and include collaborating with residents, businesses, institutions, community associations, local watershed associations and environmental organizations, and government agencies to prepare and implement plans; as well as engage Baltimore County communities through education, outreach and volunteer activities.
Watershed Planning: Small Watershed Action Plans (SWAPs)
A SWAP is both an assessment of current watershed conditions, as well as a restoration strategy for meeting pollution reduction requirements Volume one of a SWAP outlines the restoration strategy actions, while volume two summarizes the field and GIS data assessments.
Residents, businesses, institutions, community associations, local watersheds, environmental organizations and government agencies all work collaboratively to build a successful plan. The process is guided by a diverse steering committee, with public meetings and comment periods to generate input from the greater community. The plan involves:
- Assessing existing conditions within the watershed
- Identifying potential sources of pollution sources
- Examining and prioritizing opportunities for environmental restoration and protection
- Determining potential costs for implementation
- Outlining a plan, and set measurable goals for actions to reduce pollution
Upon completion of the plan, there are many opportunities for residents and community groups to help implement the recommended actions—in your own yard or on a site nearby. Baltimore County is divided by watershed into 23 Small Watershed Action Plan (SWAP) areas to provide tailor-made plans and strategies for each SWAP. SWAPs have been developed for about half of the planning areas.
View a map of the County's 14 major watersheds, listed below. The Urban Rural Demarcation Line (URDL) separates areas in the County that receive public water and sewer infrastructure from those that rely on private well and septic systems. Watershed areas inside the URDL can accommodate development, including employment, retail and residences, while the areas outside are reserved for agricultural, natural resource protection and low density rural residential development.
View the Tidal Back River (E) and Upper Back River (L) on a map.
73 miles of streams (including Herring Run, Red House Run and Stemmers Run), 2/3 of which are in the urban/suburban portions of southeastern Baltimore County. Communities/facilities include:
- Loch Raven Village
- Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant
- Historic Ballestone Manor House
- Rocky Point Golf Course
- Waterfront parks, including Cox’s Point Park and Rocky Point Park that feature public picnic areas, boat ramps and fishing piers
The watershed is currently 70 percent built-out. Much of the existing development occurred in the 60s/70s, before current stormwater management regulations, resulting in limited opportunities for stormwater management controls. Through the Baltimore County Waterway Improvement Program, the following projects have been implemented:
- Water quality retrofit
- Shoreline enhancement
- Stream restoration
- Monitoring the need for maintenance dredging in the tributaries of Back River
- Floatable debris removal "trash boom" —Collaborative effort with the Back River Restoration Committee, project area spans the mouth of Moores Run, a tributary that includes Herring Run and Redhouse Run streams
- Tidal Back River SWAP Volume 1 and Volume 2
- Upper Back River SWAP Volume 1 and Volume 2
- Lower Back River Neck Ecological Study—Includes assessments of the plant community, wetlands, wildlife, shoreline, and stream conditions. This study is available in local libraries and is part of the Back River Neck Rural Legacy program.
View the Baltimore Harbor Watershed (D) on a map.
Located immediately east of Baltimore City and includes Bear Creek, Old Road Bay, Shallow Creek and other small tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. Many of the waterfront communities consist of residential and commercial development. Highly urbanized land uses, though some parcels of open space exist, including parkland, agricultural and forested areas. Communities include:
- Dundalk and Dundalk campus of Baltimore Community College
- Sparrows Point—Large tracts occupied by heavy industry, such as the shipyard and steel plant
- Bear Creek
- Fort Howard Parks
- Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge
- Private marinas, clubs and restaurants
- Merritt Point
- Northpoint State Park and the Defenders Trail used during the War of 1812
- Shoreline stabilization projects, including those at:
- Battle Grove Park
- Bear Creek Park and elementary school
- Inverness Park
- Merritt Point Park
- Water quality retrofit and waterway dredging projects to improve water quality and recreational boating access
View the Bird River Watershed (K) on a map.
Located in eastern Baltimore County, the watershed’s major tributary, White Marsh Run, begins at Harford Road and I-695 and continues east, parallel to Route 43; it enters Bird River just east of Route 40 at Ebenezer Road. Other tributaries include Honeygo Run and Windlass Run. The tidal portion of Bird River is about 20,000 linear feet that includes Bird River and Railroad Creek.
- White Marsh—Original designated growth area of Baltimore County. Under a managed growth plan established in 1983 to protect areas outside the URDL and the reservoir watersheds in Northern Baltimore County, the area was targeted for intensive residential, commercial and industrial development. Today, clusters of financial, insurance and health care operations, light manufacturing, technology and distribution surround a vibrant town center that includes the White Marsh Mall and The Avenue, a main street retail and entertainment center.
- Perry Hall
- Bird River Beach
- Bird River Grove
- Days Cove area of Gunpowder Falls State Park—Maryland’s largest park, where visitors can enjoy fishing, birding, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
- Harewood Park
- Honeygo Run Regional Park
- Loreley Beach
The Bird River watershed was also targeted for the County’s first comprehensive watershed plan, which was completed in 1995. To date, over five miles of stream restoration have been completed on the main stem and tributaries of White Marsh Run and Honeygo Run. In addition, numerous water quality retrofit projects have been implemented in this watershed as well as the dredging of Bird River and Railroad Creek.
View the Middle Gwynns Falls (C) and Upper Gwynns Falls (V) on a map.
Southwestern portion of Baltimore County extending from Reisterstown to Owings Mills. The lower third of the 66-square-mile watershed continues into Baltimore City. It contains 133 miles of streams and drains to the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River in downtown Baltimore.
Owings Mills is designated as one of the County’s growth areas and has experienced development along the I-70 and Reisterstown Road corridor. The watershed lies almost entirely within the URDL and is serviced by water and sewer. The watershed has a population of 356,000 and 74.3 percent of the watershed is classified as urban.
Two major public land holdings are located in the watershed and represent the largest forested segments of the watershed.
- The Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area consists of 1,000 acres and is located in Owings Mills. The property protects and preserves unusual serpentine barren habitat with 39 rare and endangered species. I
- In Baltimore City, the 1,200 acre Leakin Park is one of the largest urban wilderness parks on the East Coast and also contains the trail heads for the 154-mile Gwynns Falls Trail. This urban greenway is a walking and biking trail that links with the Inner Harbor promenade and is part of the East Coast Greenway and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.
- Middle Gwynns Falls—Planning area includes communities in Randallstown, Woodlawn and a portion of Pikesville, which drain to the Gwynns Falls main stem, Scotts Level, Powder Mill Run, Dead Run and Maiden Choice Run.
- Upper Gwynns Falls—SWAP Volume 1 and Volume 2
- Baltimore Ecosystem Study
View a map of the Jones Falls watershed and individual SWAP areas—Lower Jones Falls (H), Northeastern Jones Falls (M), and Upper Jones Falls (G).
Encompassing 40 square miles, nearly two-thirds of this watershed is located in rural Baltimore County. More than 200,000 residents live in the Jones Falls watershed, 67,000 of whom live in the County. Headwaters begin in Greenspring Valley and meander east to Lake Roland where it merges with the eastern tributaries and continues southward over the dam and through Baltimore City where it emerges from a tunnel in the Inner Harbor.
This watershed is divided by the County’s URDL, with rural countryside at the headwaters to the west and highly urbanized areas to the east. The most heavily developed areas are in the eastern and southern portions of the watershed where nearly one-third of the land area is covered by impervious surfaces such as parking lots, sidewalks and driveways. Other features include:
- Lake Roland Park
- Private and public golf courses/schools, and country clubs
- Medical and educational institutions, including:
- Towson University
- Sheppard Pratt
- Greater Baltimore Medical Center
- University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center
- Portions of the Jones Falls support a healthy, self-sustaining brown trout population
- Lower Jones Falls SWAP
- Northeastern Jones Falls SWAP Volume 1 and Volume 2
- Upper Jones Falls SWAP Volume 1 and Volume 2
View the Liberty Reservoir (S) on a map.
Located in western Baltimore County and eastern Carroll County. The North Branch of the Patapsco River is the primary tributary that feeds the reservoir.
Nearly half of the County portion is forested with large forest blocks in the vicinity of the reservoir. The 9,200-acre Liberty Reservoir tract is owned by the City of Baltimore and is managed to protect the reservoir. Water from the reservoir flows by gravity through a 12.7-mile long, 10-foot diameter tunnel to the Ashburton Water Filtration Plant for treatment in Baltimore City, who owns the reservoir system. Other features include
- Recreational opportunities
- Liberty Dam
- Community of Reisterstown
- Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area.
View a map of the Little Gunpowder Falls (P) watershed.
Approximately half of the watershed is located in Baltimore County. The Little Gunpowder Falls watershed is rural in character, beginning near the intersection of Troyer Road and Hunter’s Mill Road, and extending southeast along the Baltimore and Harford County border through the communities of Jacksonville, Sweet Air, Baldwin, Fork, Kingsville, Franklinville and Bradshaw, and emptying into the Gunpowder River upstream of Day’s Cove.
The upper portion of the watershed is predominantly agricultural and the the lower portion is more developed, including low-density residential, industrial and commercial land use. Approximately 4,000 acres of this watershed is within Gunpowder Falls State Park—Maryland’s largest park where visitors can enjoy fishing, birding, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
View a map of the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed and individual SWAP areas:
- Beaverdam Run, Baisman Run and Oregon Branch (I)
- Loch Raven East (R)
- Loch Raven North (X)
- Loch Raven West (W)
- Loch Raven South (O)
- Spring Branch (Portion of SWAP area O)
Located just north of the Baltimore Beltway, this watershed occupies almost the entire central portion of Baltimore County. The Loch Raven Reservoir watershed begins at the dam on the Prettyboy Reservoir. The Gunpowder Falls then flows across the rural lands of north central Baltimore County. Small parts of Western Harford County and Southern York County, Pennsylvania also drain into this watershed. It encompasses Baltimore County communities from Upperco to Jacksonville, including Hereford, Parkton and Cockeysville.
Loch Raven is the largest of three area reservoir watersheds that together provide up to 405 million gallons of water per day to Baltimore City and Baltimore County, via Gunpowder Falls. The reservoir is protected under a Reservoir Watershed Management Agreement. Almost all of the watershed is located outside the County’s URDL and a substantial agricultural community continues to farm on these lands. The County has worked with these landowners to preserve thousands of acres of land with protective easements.
- Gunpowder Falls State Park—Maryland’s largest park, where visitors can enjoy fishing, birding, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
- Loch Raven Fishing Center
- Loch Raven South—Includes communities in Towson, Timonium, Cockeysville, and Hunt Valley.
- Loch Raven West—Includes Upperco, Glyndon, Boring, Butler, Worthington Valley and the north side of Reisterstown, which drain to Loch Raven Reservoir. Land use in the watershed is predominately agricultural.
- Loch Raven North—Includes much of northern Baltimore County, including Freeland, Parkton, White Hall, Hereford and Sparks, which drain to the Loch Raven Reservoir.
- Loch Raven East—Includes communities in the Phoenix, Jacksonville and Long Green vicinity, which drain to the Loch Raven Reservoir.
- Beaverdam, Oregon Branch and Baisman Run—Include Oregon Ridge Park, Baltimore County's Center for Maryland Agriculture, many churches and numerous large lot neighborhoods.
- Spring Branch
View a map of the Lower Gunpowder Falls watershed and individual SWAP areas, Rural (Q) and Urban (N).
Located in the central eastern portion of the County, the Lower Gunpowder Falls begins at the Loch Raven Reservoir Dam and flows eastward where it meets the tidal portions of the Gunpowder River. Major tributaries in the watershed include Minebank Run, Long Green Creek, Sweathouse Run, Haystack Branch, Jennifer Branch and Bean Run.
The main stem of the Lower Gunpowder Falls forms a unique geographic divide in this watershed with:
- Very rural countryside to the north—Primarily agricultural in nature, and includes the communities of Long Green, Hydes, Glen Arm, Fork, Kingsville and Upper Falls.
- Highly urbanized area on the southern side—Developed areas such as parts of Towson, Carney, Parkville, Perry Hall and the commercial corridor along Joppa Road.
- The valley consists of heavily forested lands that are part of the Gunpowder Falls State Park. The park, Maryland’s largest, is a popular destination for fishing, birding, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
The Lower Gunpowder Falls watershed is also home to Cromwell Valley Park. Located in the Minebank Run stream valley, this 367-acre Baltimore County park includes pasture, open fields, forests, hedgerows, cultivated fields and floodplain. These mixed habitats make it an excellent area for diverse wildlife. The Department of Recreation and Parks hosts events and educational programs year-round for children and adults with a focus on farming, history and natural history. A portion of the park is a demonstration farm, illustrating animal husbandry and sustainable and organic farming. The farm also operates a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm program. The County completed a major stream restoration project along Minebank Run through Cromwell Valley alongside three miles of stream.
View the Middle River (F) Watershed on a map.
12 square-mile area in urban and suburban portions of southeastern Baltimore County. Includes the Lockheed Martin Aviation complex, one of the largest such facilities on the East Coast. Middle River is a wide, shallow tidal estuary that extends southeastward approximately four miles from Eastern Boulevard in Baltimore County before entering the Chesapeake Bay. This watershed has only nine miles of stream channels and is mostly recognized for its tidal waterways including:
- Hopkins Creek
- Norman Creek
- Frog Mortar Creek
- Galloway Creek
- Sue Creek
The major communities in this watershed include Middle River, Essex and Bowleys Quarters. The watershed consists primarily of older residential developments intermixed with commercial and industrial areas. Large forested tracts of land remain interspersed throughout the entire watershed and relatively rural lands occupy many locations in the lower portions of the watershed surrounding the mouth of the River. Other features:
- Hawthorne Park
- Marinas and waterfront restaurants
- Sue Creek Park
- Turkey Point Park
- Wilson Point Park
- Water dredging
- Water quality improvement projects
- Stream restoration
- Water quality retrofit project at the Fields at Renaissance Park
View the Lower Patapsco River (A) and Upper Patapsco River (B) on a map.
Located in the southwestern portion of Baltimore County, bounded by:
- Liberty Reservoir and Carroll County line to the north
- Patapsco River and Howard County line to the west
- Anne Arundel and Baltimore City lines to the south
While the Patapsco River is a minor river for most of its length, its last 10 miles are a large tidal estuary inlet of Chesapeake Bay. The tidal area of the Patapsco, comprised of the Northwest Harbor and Middle Branch, is crossed by the Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry Tunnels as well as the Francis Scott Key Bridge.
The watershed includes the communities of:
- University of Maryland at Baltimore County
- Catonsville Community College
- Patapsco Valley State Park
- Upper Patapsco SWAP includes the area of Granite and part of Randallstown.
- Lower Patapsco SWAP covers the area from Catonsville to Arbutus. Read Volume 1 and Volume 2.
Located in the northwest corner of Baltimore County, Prettyboy Reservoir is the second largest and most remote of the three area reservoir watersheds. The watershed is seven miles from east to west and about 10 miles from north to south. The drainage area extends from the southern reaches of York County, Pennsylvania and the northeastern corner of Carroll County into the northwestern corner of Baltimore County, where it drains into the Prettyboy Reservoir. The municipalities of Hampstead and Manchester make up the western edge of the watershed. 24,000 acres or 55 percent is located in Baltimore County. The dam is located on the Gunpowder River.
A largely rural watershed which comprises 6.3 percent of the land area of the County.
- Half of the land within Baltimore County’s portion actively being used for agriculture:
- Planted crops—predominantly corn, soybeans and wheat and pasture.
- Horse farms
- Half of the watershed is in low-density rural residential land use.
- Baltimore City owns the reservoir system and offers several recreational opportunities. Call Reservoir Natural Resources at 410-795-6150 for more information.
Baltimore Watershed Agreement—Formalizes the commitment of Baltimore City and Baltimore County to work together on the management and monitoring of shared watersheds. First signed in 2002 and renewed in 2006, the agreement acknowledges that geographic boundaries of watersheds are more appropriate for managing these important natural resources than political boundaries.
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Annual Report—Read about stormwater-related programs and projects targeted to reduce water quality pollution and view watershed management data. View the permit data or GIS data layers used to compile the reports.