John McCoy, Columbia Association watershed manager

To request more information about watershed and open space program resources, please email

Why is watershed management important?

There is more than one watershed in Columbia, and all of them are defined by the same principle — the water that falls onto the ground drains into streams, rivers and other bodies of water.

A watershed is defined as the area that drains to any specific body of water. Columbia is in the Little Patuxent River Watershed, the Middle Patuxent River Watershed and the Dorsey Run Watershed. Smaller watersheds within each of these drain to the streams that feed the rivers.

What we do on the ground has an effect on water quality. As water hits the ground it picks up and carries everything from sediment to the chemicals we put on our lawns and other forms of pollution. That affects our waterways, from the streams and the Little and Middle Patuxent rivers to the lakes and ponds around our community and all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. What goes into our water affects plants, wildlife and water quality, which in turn has consequences on our lifestyle.

What is Columbia Association doing?

That’s why Columbia Association (CA) developed the Columbia Watershed Management Plan with the objective of protecting and restoring the waters of Columbia.

The two-pronged plan begins with identifying and restoring Columbia’s watershed infrastructure, performing intensive investigations to find pollution sources and then designing restoration projects to reduce them. Just as important, though, is educating and involving residents and property owners in watershed stewardship.

CA’s Watershed Advisory Committee was formed in 2008 to involve Columbia residents in creating and implementing watershed plans, enhancing public awareness and facilitating further education on watershed issues. More information on the Watershed Advisory Committee is available here.

How can I help?

CA offers multiple ways that community members can help contribute to a healthier watershed, including a free soil testing program and the Weed Warriors program.

Free soil testing helps you know what kind of fertilizer to use on your lawn and how much. This helps prevent people from using too much fertilizer, which then washes into Columbia’s streams, ponds and lakes. It also brings homeowners into compliance with state fertilizer regulations. Soil test bags are available from the offices of Columbia’s 10 village community associations. Place your soil sample in the bag and bring it back to your village community association office. CA will then send it to a lab for analysis and contact you with the results and recommendations.

The Weed Warrior Program is a cooperative program with Howard Community College, the University of Maryland Extension Service and the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area. CA and its partners train volunteers in invasive plant identification and removal and in the leadership skills required to lead groups of volunteers participating in invasive removal activities. CA also supports these activities by providing native plants to plant in areas where non-natives have been removed. The program is designed to help improve the appearance of open space and provide a better balance for our ecosystem.