In cities all across the globe, hard surfaces like roads and buildings prevent rain and snowmelt from soaking into the ground. It is collected by storm drains on roads and in parking lots where a series of underground pipes takes the water to a local stream (see graphic below). The water used inside your house, in sinks and washing machines, for example, is called wastewater. It is collected and sent to a wastewater treatment plant at either the Public Works facility on Annapolis Road or the WSSC treatment plant. is treated, rain and snow melt (stormwater) are not. As stormwater flows across parking lots and roads, it collect things. This means that anything you see that accumulates on the ground including pollutants such as trash, pet waste, cigarette butts, etc., gets washed into streams when it rains.
While one cigarette butt tossed from a car may seem innocent or dog poop left in your own backyard harmless, they are not. They add to everyone else’s cigarette butts and dogs' poop, joining grass clippings, oil from cars, pesticides, and many other pollutants in streams. This stormwater pollution is the biggest threat to streams in Bowie, the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay where it accumulates. The same thing is happening in bodies of water in communities across the country.
All the land that drains to a particular body of water is called a watershed. Watersheds can become significantly degraded by stormwater pollution, and the City is tasked with preventing this. The Maryland Department of the Environment regulates stormwater pollution, and the City is required, under a permit with MDE, to improve stream quality by removing as many pollutants as possible. We do this through a number of programs that fall into the heading watershed management.
Part of watershed management is structural work under the City’s Capital Projects program. This includes upgrading older stormwater ponds and implementing stream restoration projects. But the most efficient and inexpensive way to minimize stream pollution is to simply prevent it. This is where the other part of watershed management comes in – pollution prevention. Below are summaries of our programs and links to get more information for what you can do to contribute to the solution rather than increasing stormwater pollution.
City Efforts to Manage Watersheds and Combat Stormwater Pollution
The City takes a two-pronged approach to preventing stormwater pollution: capital projects and pollution prevention. Under the Capital Projects program, older stormwater ponds are upgraded, and streams are restored. But the most efficient and inexpensive way to minimize stream pollution is to simply prevent it, through education and community involvement.
These large, expensive construction projects are required by the City’s stormwater permit (officially known as an NPDES MS4 permit) from the Maryland Department of the Environment. These projects include work in neighborhoods or along stream channels. Visit the City's Capital Projects page for more details.
The water that runs off from hard surfaces like rooftops, driveways and parking lots is called stormwater runoff and carries a variety of pollutants into local streams. Much of Bowie was built by Levitt and Sons in the 1960s before important environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Act were in place. Bowie, along with dozens of communities across the state, is now required to take steps to improve the quality of water that will eventually flow to the Chesapeake Bay.
The City is actively engaged in several projects related to these requirements. The work will take at least five years, and as each project begins and ends, this page will be updated. You may read the stormwater retrofit assessment here. For additional information on any of the projects below or anything related to stormwater, streams, or water pollution, please contact the City's Watershed Manager, Tiffany Wright (by email or at 301-809-3043).
Kenhill Center Bioretention
In the spring of 2019, five small stormwater treatment areas were installed along the back of the parking lot and along the side of the southern entrance from Kenhill Drive. These treatment areas are bioretention cells and rain gardens and treat nearly four acres of impervious cover. An informational sign with a link to more information was installed between the bioretention at the southern entrance and the sidewalk along Kenhill Drive.
A stakeholders meeting was held on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Slides from the presentation and a summary of the meeting can be downloaded below.
Midwood Lane Pond Improvements
The City's first stormwater pond upgrade to meet these requirements was completed in the spring of 2018. The project on Midwood Lane adjacent to Belair Swim & Racquet Club included excavating the existing pond to provide a permanent pool of water. This helps pollutants that flow into the pond to settle to the bottom before the water is discharged to the Millstream Branch stream. The footprint of the pond was enlarged, and a new fence was installed around the pond. Below are links to before and after photos as well as a panoramic shot of the completed pond.
Spangler Lane Pond Improvements
In 2019, City contractors completed construction on the upgraded pond at the intersection of Spangler Lane and Starlight Lane. The pond now provides full water quality treatment to 37 acres of impervious cover that previously carried a variety of trash and pollutants to White Marsh Branch.
A consultant is creating designs for renovating the pond on Spangler Lane (between Shelter and Starlight Lanes). Trees will be removed so that the existing pond can be enlarged. The pond will have a permanent pool of water that will help pollutants fall out of the water before emptying into Construction should begin in late spring 2019. This project is similar, though smaller, to the pond retrofit completed on Midwood Lane in spring 2018. A stakeholders meeting was held on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Slides from the presentation and a summary of the meeting can be downloaded below.
Woodhaven Lane Pond Improvements
In early 2019, a consultant designed improvements to the Levitt-era pond on Woodhaven Lane near Whitehall Drive. The changes will include tree clearing, enlarging and excavating the pond footprint, and replacing the fence. Construction was completed in 2020, and nine impervious acres now have full water quality treatment.