The Watershed and Your Backyard

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What is a watershed?
A watershed is an area of land that drains to a specific body of water. It can be as small as a few acres or as large as the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed (64,000 square miles). Precipitation falls onto the land, flowing to streams, lakes, and rivers. Some water soaks through the soil or is taken up by plants; both act as filters to remove pollutants. Hard surfaces such as roads and sidewalks prevent water from soaking into the ground. When this happens, more pollutants reach our waterways.

How does my backyard affect local waterways?
The way you use your property affects water quality. Pollutants on your lawn, sidewalk, and roof will eventually wash into storm drains and local waterways when it rains. For instance, pollutants on a property in downtown Frederick wash into Carroll Creek, then the Monocacy River, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay. Common pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste, sediment, car exhaust, oil, and detergents degrade water quality and harm aquatic life.

How can my backyard help my watershed?
Here are 5 actions you can take at home to help your local watershed:

  1. Pick up pet waste. When pet waste washes into waterways, it adds unnecessary nutrient pollution. Instead, pick it up and put it in the trash can.
  2. Perform a soil test and reduce your use of fertilizers and pesticides. Excess fertilizer and pesticides make their way to local waterways and degrade water quality. You can still have a green lawn and save money by using less, or even no chemicals. A soil test will tell you what type of fertilizer to use and how much, if any, is needed. You can get a FREE soil test kit by registering for the Green Leader Challenge.
  3. Install and use a rain barrel. Rain barrels capture water from your roof and store it for later use, both reducing stormwater runoff and the amount of well or treated water used outside.
  4. Reduce turf by installing a rain garden and planting native. A rain garden is an area of rich, amended soil and native plants that collect and filter rainwater. Likewise, native trees, shrubs, and plants can beautify your property and reduce runoff.
  5. Take the Green Leader Challenge or attend a Neighborhood Green workshop! Reduce your household’s impact on the environment by engaging in these Frederick County programs. Become a Green Leader by taking action to reduce water pollution, manage your household’s waste, cut back on fuel use, make healthier food choices, and more. Engage in the Neighborhood Green program to reduce your stormwater runoff and transform your property from turf to native wildlife habitat.

fc_oser3_2012Take the Green Leader Challenge!
Visit or contact the coordinator at or 301.600.7414 to learn more.

Attend a Neighborhood Green workshop!
Visit or contact the coordinator at or 301.600.1741 to learn more.