Issues: Polluted Runoff / RainScaping


Polluted runoff is the biggest problem facing the Severn River.

When it rains, waters "runs off" of roads, driveways, houses, parking lots, and the likes instead of soaking into the ground. This water is then called run off. On the way from the parking lot or your front yard, it picks up dirt, pet feces, lawn and agricultural fertilizer, trash, and chemicals, like oil and arsenic  that are on the ground or surfaces runoff touches. All this gets transported to the the nearest creek either by pipe or an eroded ditch. This makes a creek a very gross place to be after a rain. Creeks feed the River so if the creeks are unhealthy, so is the river. This form of rain transport to our water way is extremely detrimental:

  • Instead of cooling down while it goes through the ground, the runoff is hotter than the creek and river ecosystem is used to and causes problems for breeding animals like fish.

  • All the dirt that is picked up racing down the street (who hasn't seen a small creek form on one of their neighborhood streets?) and though the eroded ditch to the creek creates a muddy creek in which fish cannot breathe and plants can't get enough sunlight.

  • The nitrogen and phosporus found in fertilizer and pet feces are nutrients that can also be used in the creek. However, runoff creates too high of a level of both nutrients, and throws the ecosystem out of balance. Bacteria and algae are the first to consume these nutrients. This is how an algae bloom is created in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Not only are blooms harmful while they alive (some are toxic, even to humans), but when they die their decomposition uses all the dissolved oxygen in the water and creates a "dead zone." Without a certain level of dissolved oxygen, aquatic life cannot exist. The Severn River currently has a large dead zone in the Round Bay region. It is the only river to have a constant dead zone from summer to summer. Because of these pollutants it is best not to swim in any river in the Chesapeake watershed for at least 48 hours after a storm.

  • Let's not forget all the other stuff that got washed into the creek as well- trash, oil from roads, and any chemicals that have been spilled. None of these things are good for our environment, land or water. None of our stormwater pipes or drains have filters to keep out trash- they would be clogged every rain.

Howard's Branch Sand Seepage Wetland installed in 2001 in Brewer's Creek Watershed

Howard's Branch Sand Seepage Wetland installed in 2001 in Brewer's Creek Watershed

The Regenerative Groundwater Conveyance System (RSC) that was first installed at Howard’s Branch on Brewer’s Creek successfully reduced polluted runoff. We are designing similar systems for Clements and Saltworks creeks. Our strategy to improve water quality is to install these systems throughout the river.



RainScaping Campaign Promotes
“Beautiful Solutions to Water Pollution”

Did you know that stormwater runoff is the major cause of water pollution throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed?


Working together, more than 30 (and growing) partners are implementing a RainScaping Campaign to improve the health of Anne Arundel County’s tributaries and the Chesapeake Bay. The campaign will highlight pollutants carried to our waterways in stormwater runoff such as sediment, excess nutrients from overuse of fertilizers, pesticides, oils, metals, and other contaminants; as well as the lack of natural filtering processes and infiltration. The RainScaping Campaign will promote a comprehensive approach to easy-to-use solutions to clean up our streams, creeks, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.  RainScaping techniques such as rain gardens, native tree and shrub planting, rain barrels, and permeable pavers are proven and widely-accepted “beautiful landscaping techniques” that effectively manage stormwater runoff at the source, while protecting natural resources and providing wildlife habitat.  

Urban and suburban landowners who understand the importance of rainscaping, but may not have the tools, knowledge or inspiration to start rainscaping on their own, are our target audience. Through the efforts of the RainScaping Campaign, they will be empowered to actively participate in rainscaping activities which will result in reduced pesticide and fertilizer use, better management of pet waste and trash, and the installation of rain gardens and other landscaping techniques to eliminate polluted runoff. 

more information on rainscaping

The Campaign Partners will officially launch the RainScaping Campaign and the website with a Campaign Kickoff at the rain gardens at the Chesapeake Ecology Center, located on the grounds of Adams Academy Middle School, 245 Clay Street, Annapolis, Maryland, on Earth Day, April 22, from 10 – 11 a.m. There will be an opportunity to tour several rain gardens as well as hear from partners, sponsors, and public officials about the importance of this effort.  No RSVP is required.  (In case of rain, the Campaign Kickoff will be held in the Adams Academy gymnasium.)  For further information, please contact Zora Lathan.

The RainScaping Campaign is sponsored by the 2008 Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program—administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation—and RainScaping Campaign Partners, including the Severn Riverkeeper.