What is a watershed?

The land area that contributes runoff to a particular stream or drainage course is known as the watershed. Each watershed is comprised of multiple subwatersheds. Columbia lies in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in the Patuxent sub-watershed. The portions of the Patuxent River watershed that Columbia lies in are called the Little Patuxent, the Middle Patuxent and Dorsey Run.

When we speak of the Columbia watershed, we are including the streams, lakes, plants, land use and living organisms throughout the local drainage areas.

Why should I care about the Columbia watershed?

Development and activities in and around Columbia have resulted in damage to the local streams and lakes, and contribute to the pollution of the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay with excess nutrients and sediment. Polluted runoff has degraded the biodiversity and recreational opportunities in Columbia.

What are some of the concerns with the Columbia watershed?

Streams throughout Columbia seem to be carved, eroding and missing the biological communities for which they could provide. They are also contributing major sediment, nutrient and pollutant loads to the three Columbia Association lakes. Analyses from the first phases of the watershed management planning process will provide more specific descriptions of problems in the watershed.

Are there studies on the watershed that have been completed in prior years?

Columbia’s watersheds have been studied over the years by CA, Howard County and the state of Maryland. However, it is not specific to all of Columbia. Howard County monitors the condition of its streams on a rotating basis among its watersheds using the Maryland Biological Stream Survey methods. The Columbia Watershed Management Plan draws upon those existing studies and augment our understanding with additional field assessments and analyses. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources sponsors volunteer monitoring of streams in Columbia through the Stream Waders Program.

What does storm water have to do with watershed management?

Stormwater is water that falls from the sky as rain or snow. Most of it seeps into the ground. However, if the ground is saturated, frozen or covered with impermeable surfaces (paved parking lots, roads or rooftops), then the water flows over these surfaces, often picking up pollutants and causing what is known as stormwater runoff. The velocity, temperature and content of this stormwater runoff can all have effects on the land, plants and animals. Ultimately, polluted stormwater runoff from throughout the state is the primary cause of the decline of the Chesapeake Bay.

How can residents and businesses participate in watershed management planning?

CA’s Watershed Advisory Committee has representatives from each of Columbia’s 10 villages. They can answer questions and take information back to the watershed planning team easily. You can attend one of their monthly meetings [LINK TO MEETINGS]. Throughout the process, there will also be opportunities for community involvement and input. Additionally, there will be educational opportunities to learn ways to use rain gardens, rain barrels, best management practices and other modifications to daily activities that help the watershed. If you are interested in becoming involved, please contact us here.