Strategic Watershed Management
The Watershed Management Division develops, implements, and measures the effectiveness of strategies to protect and restore local watersheds. The strategic roadmap for watershed management for the next 5 years is closely coordinated with Montgomery County's Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit.
The direction and context for County-wide watershed management programs are laid out in the key regulations and requirements of the MS4 permit. DEP is committed to the protection and, where necessary, restoration of the County's surface water and groundwater resources, including its reservoirs, streams, rivers, and wetlands.
Return to Top
Regulatory Requirements: NPDES Stormwater (MS4) Permit
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit (NPDES MS4) program is a federal regulatory program established to reduce and eliminate pollution from storm drain systems to streams and waterways. The primary goal of the program is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is responsible for issuing all NPDES permits in the state. The stormwater permit requires the County to submit an annual report to MDE on compliance in six areas: legal authority, source identification, discharge characterization, management programs, program funding, and assessment of controls.
Read more information about the Maryland MS4 permit program.
Highlights of requirements of the County's current MS4 stormwater permit include:
- Restoring, to the maximum extent practicable, 20 percent of impervious surface not previously treated
- Implementing the Potomac Trash Treaty
- Progress toward meeting the waste load allocations specified in approved Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) in the watersheds within the County
Read the full background on the County's stormwater permit, along with annual reports on compliance and the MDE's annual evaluation of the County's program for the past 5 years.
Return to Top
County Water Quality Goals
In November 1994 Montgomery County adopted the water quality goals outlined below (Montgomery County Code, Chapter 19, Article IV). These goals drive the County's watershed programs:
- Protect, maintain, and restore high-quality chemical, physical, and biological conditions in the waters of the state in the County.
- Reverse the past trends of stream deterioration through improved water management practices.
- Maintain physical, chemical, biological, and stream habitat conditions in County streams that support aquatic life along with appropriate recreational, water supply, and other water uses.
- Restore County streams damaged by the inadequate water management practices of the past by reestablishing the flow regime, chemistry, physical conditions, and biological diversity of natural stream systems as closely as possible.
- Help fulfill interjurisdictional commitments to restore and maintain the integrity of the Anacostia River, the Potomac River, the Patuxent River, and the Chesapeake Bay.
- Promote and support educational and volunteer initiatives that enhance public awareness and increase direct participation in stream stewardship and the reduction of water pollution.
Return to Top
DEP's Headline Performance Measures for Watersheds
DEP is evaluated annually by the County Executive's County STAT Initiative on its performance on the following headline measures related to watersheds:
- Amount of pollutant removed through the watershed restoration program
- Improvement in biological conditions of County watersheds
Each year DEP is expected to make progress on these measures through its programmatic directions, strategic use of budget, and staff efforts. DEP's monitoring program generates key data used in the analysis of the Department's status and progress each year toward improving watershed and water quality conditions. DEP's annual performance plan and County Stat presentation highlight the status, progress, and any challenges the Department has faced in meeting its watershed goals.
Historically, urban areas—with their dense populations, many construction sites, large number of domestic pets, and large amount of trash generation—exert a much bigger influence than undeveloped areas on the County's watersheds. Runoff from urban areas impacts local streams through the introduction of pollutants from sources such as automobile use and roadways; construction sites; pet waste; gardens and yards; and litter and trash. DEP asks everyone in the County to make a difference by protecting their watershed and stopping stormwater pollution.
Return to Top
Countywide Stream Protection Strategy
The Countywide Stream Protection Strategy (CSPS) was developed to provide an overall assessment of County stream conditions in order to identify and prioritize those subwatershed areas most in need of attention. The goals of the CSPS are as follows:
- Share information from the County's stream-monitoring program on the condition of County watersheds and the importance of maintaining healthy streams to the community.
- Identify stream conditions based on science, and present a protective strategy, with recommended priorities, for review by elected officials and others who evaluate and approve/deny our budget proposals.
- Provide detailed information on watershed conditions, their possible causes and what we are trying to do to improve these conditions.
- Provide general information on what's in our streams of interest to citizens, hopefully stimulating more personal involvement in environmental stewardship.
- Present ways for the County to improve its stewardship of natural resources for a sustainable future.
Return to Top
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)
TMDLs are regulatory limits on how much of a certain pollutant may be discharged to a body of water, such as a stream segment, river, or lake, to ensure that water quality standards can be met. TMDLs are administered by the State of Maryland, which develops then submits them to EPA for approval. Approved-TMDL pollutant loading limits are legally binding.
The County's current NPDES MS4 stormwater permit requires the County to implement best management practices (BMPs), and track progress toward achieving loading limits for any approved TMDLs. In County watersheds with approved TMDLs, DEP is focusing on implementing BMPs to limit pollutant-loading as established in the applicable TMDL.
View a map of all County watersheds with impaired waters and approved TMDLs.
View maps of County watersheds broken out by individual pollutant TMDL.
Return to Top
Special Protection Areas
The County Council designates Special Protection Areas (SPAs). An SPA is a geographic area that has high-quality or unusually sensitive water resources and environmental features that would be threatened by proposed land development if special water quality protection measures were not applied. Although development isn't barred in SPAs, all development is subject to special reviews and water quality monitoring requirements. The first SPA was established in 1995.
Today, there are four SPAs: Upper Rock Creek, Upper Paint Branch, Piney Branch, and Clarksburg. DEP monitors SPA streams and analyzes monitoring data. Within SPAs, commercial developers are required to submit water quality data taken from structures put in place to prevent excess sediment from getting into streams during construction (known as best management practices, or BMPs).
The Clarksburg Monitoring Partnership with federal, state, and academic partners is conducting separate but related research and providing additional resources the County would otherwise not be able to provide. DEP uses these data to prepare the SPA Annual Reports, which
- Present up-to-date information on SPA water resources
- Make recommendations to the County Council on protections needed to maintain these water resources, and the capacity of SPAs to grow while minimizing water quality environmental impacts
Return to Top
Water and Sewer Comprehensive Plan
The Water and Sewer Comprehensive Plan is a functional master plan for providing water and sewer service throughout the County. As a functional master plan, it provides an important link between the County's land use and development planning and the actual construction of the water supply and sewerage systems needed to implement that planning effort. The plan influences land use and development strategies in the County. It also provides information on the County's existing water supply and sewerage systems—everything from the point where raw water is drawn from a surface water or groundwater supply, through delivery and use by the consumer, to the final treatment and disposal or reuse of wastewater effluent.
Return to Top
Montgomery County is situated in the central corridor of Maryland between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The County, given its drainage area size and population density, has a considerable impact on both regional and local environmental resources. It is a signatory to regional watershed protection agreements and coordinates watershed management with neighboring jurisdictions to protect and improve shared resources.
Anacostia Watershed Restoration Agreement
The Anacostia River flows through Montgomery and Prince George's counties into Washington, D.C., and then to the Potomac River. It has been identified as one of the three most polluted rivers in the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. In 1987 the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Agreement was signed by the local, state, and federal agencies with land and management responsibilities in the Anacostia watershed. Since the agreement was signed, significant strides have been made to:
- Develop a committee structure to determine how the goals of the agreement are to be reached
- Establish a process for developing a work plan and milestones for the various restoration activities
- Provide a framework for evaluating pollution control efforts with regard to observed water quality and aquatic life benefits
- Institute mechanisms and measures for tracking progress and reporting on it as it occurs
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments supports the Web site on behalf of the members of the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership. Visit www.anacostia.net for background on natural and cultural resources, along with news, meeting minutes, recent progress reports, and other watershed-based information.
Return to Top
Patuxent River Commission
Montgomery County has been a member of the Patuxent River Commission, an interjurisdictional group that addresses environmental protection issues throughout the Patuxent River watershed, since the Commission's creation in 1980 (by state legislation). The 930-square-mile watershed is entirely within Maryland. It has been the focus of innovative policy, planning, and implementation efforts since 1980, beginning with a "charrette" that resulted in establishing the state's first nutrient reduction goals for wastewater treatment plants.
Commission members committed to identifying relative roles and responsibilities to protect the watershed, tributaries, river, and reservoirs in the Upper Patuxent. They established six priority resources for protection:
- Tributary streams
- Aquatic life
- Terrestrial habitat
- The watershed's rural character and landscape
- People in the watershed
Every year the Commission reports on funding and policy commitments and progress in achieving long-term protection of these water resources.
Potomac River Watershed Trash Treaty
Since 1989 the Alice Ferguson Foundation has organized annual cleanups along the Potomac and its tributaries. In 2003 the Foundation began to galvanize federal, state, and local elected officials to participate in a strategy to prevent trash from entering local waterways. Montgomery County signed the Potomac River Watershed Trash Treaty and has committed, along with other local jurisdictions, to achieving a trash-free Potomac by 2013 by
- Supporting and implementing regional strategies aimed at reducing trash and increasing recycling
- Increasing education and awareness of the trash issue throughout the Potomac River watershed
- Reconvening annually to discuss and evaluate measures and actions addressing trash reduction
Maryland Local Government Agreement for Chesapeake Bay Restoration
In 1992 the Chesapeake Bay Program completed a reevaluation on status and trends in water quality of the bay and its tidal tributaries and reaffirmed the 1987 Bay Agreement goals for 40 percent nutrient reduction. This led to both the allocation of nutrient reduction targets among the signatory states and the Maryland Local Government Agreement. Originally signed by the Governor, counties, and the City of Baltimore in 1993, the Agreement was updated in 2000 to outline commitments by the state and local governments to address the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement at the local level.
Maryland Water Monitoring Council
The Maryland Water Monitoring Council was created in 1996 by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The Council serves as a statewide collaborative body to help achieve effective collection, interpretation, and dissemination of environmental data related to issues, policies, and resource management objectives involving water monitoring.
The Council addresses the full range of aquatic resources—groundwater and surface waters; freshwater, estuarine, and marine environments—and associated watershed resources in Maryland. Montgomery County has participated in all Council activities since 1996, which helps to protect and manage the County's aquatic resources with increased scrutiny from a broad scientific and water resource management network.
Return to Top
Public Stakeholder Involvement and Collaboration: Water Quality Advisory Group
The Montgomery County Water Quality Advisory Group (WQAG) is an 18-member citizens committee established through Chapter 19, Article IV of the Water Quality Discharge Law. The WQAG provides a formal stakeholder group for public involvement in the County's watershed protection and restoration strategies. It includes 15 resident members and 3 non-voting agency members that provide input and recommendations to the County Executive and the County Council on water quality and watershed management goals, policies, program priorities, and funding. Their recommendations are considered in shaping the water resources programmatic directions of the County.
Return to Top