Watersheds, Rivers & Streams

The term watershed refers to the region or area of land that all drains into the same river or stream. Howard County’s watershed planning and management includes all the activities related to preserving, protecting and restoring the streams, wetlands, forests and other natural resources. Howard County lies within the watersheds of two major tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay, the Patuxent and Patapsco Rivers.

Rivers and Watersheds

The Major Watersheds Map shows the nine major watersheds in the County. Get connected by finding out which watershed you live in.

The Stormwater Management Division within the Howard County Department of Public Works, Bureau of Environmental Services, conducts biological water quality monitoring and stream corridor assessment surveys. Comprehensive watershed assessment has been done within the Middle Patuxent River and the Little Patuxent River watersheds.

More recently, the Patapsco River and Mainstem Patuxent River watersheds were assessed. The watershed assessments are performed to create an inventory of the natural resources as well as existing problems (erosion, trash, lack of wooded stream buffers, etc.) within these watersheds. Another result of the assessments is a list of potential projects that could be done to protect and restore these resources, address the problems, and ultimately improve water quality in our County streams and water bodies.

To find out more about watershed assessments, the Countywide Implementation Strategy, the Downtown Ellicott City Flood Study, county permits and more, visit the Stormwater Management Division webpage.

Protecting Streams

Did you know that water that goes into storm drains is NOT treated and goes directly into local streams and rivers? Wastes such as oil, paint and other chemicals should never be allowed to enter storm drains and should be disposed of at a landfill.

Howard County is mandated by Federal law to establish an illicit discharge program. The Department of Public Work’s Storm Water Management Division is responsible for Howard County’s program.

Help protect your local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay – do not dump anything down the storm drain Liquid waste, including swimming pool water and runoff from washing your car should be diverted from storm drains and be treated at the wastewater treatment plant to avoid harm to fish and plants in the nearby stream. Fats, oils and grease (FOG) should never be poured down any drain – storm or sink.

If you see anything other than stormwater going onto street surfaces or into the storm drains in the County, please report it immediately by calling the Howard County Storm Water Management Division, Cynthia Alden 410-313-6447 or Calden@howardcountymd.gov. Or you can report on-line at the Illicit Discharge page.