The Anacostia Watershed encompasses 176 square miles of land in Prince George’s and Montgomery County, MD and part of Washington DC. The river’s 8 miles of tributaries make up one of 10 sub-watersheds that drain into the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Of the 10 sub-watersheds, the Anacostia Watershed is the most densely populated, and the most polluted. A combination of non-point source pollution from the runoff of roads, parking lots and other impervious surfaces, combined with sewer overflows from high volume rain events make this watershed unsafe for swimming and nearly uninhabitable for fish and other wildlife.
A majority of the pollutants that make the Anacostia River unhealthy originate from “non-point sources”. Pollutants contributing to the condition of the river include oil, grease, gasoline, hydrocarbons, phosphorous, nitrogen, suspended solids, and trash. Impervious surfaces such as roads make up more than 50% of some regions in the watershed, thus there is very little natural filtration that occurs before polluted storm water runoff flows directly into the Anacostia River. Impervious surfaces also allow runoff water to flow faster, increasing the area’s susceptibility to stream erosion and, in some cases, flash floods.
Located in Prince George’s County, the University of Maryland’s stormwater management impacts the water quality management of the Anacostia Watershed. Stormwater runoff from the University’s parking lots, buildings, and other impervious surfaces carries pollutants into the streams and creeks around College Park, contributing to the poor health of the Anacostia River. In addition, the stormwater runoff significantly increases the risk of erosion in College Park creeks and streams.
The University of Maryland is committed to reducing pollution in rainwater runoff and supporting responsible water usage on its College Park Campus. In order to assist UMD with its efforts in water management, Maryland Sustainability Engineering (MDSE) has decided to investigate several low impact development (LID) design projects. Students in MDSE collaborated with UMD Facilities Management and other professional contacts to consider a number of locations on campus as possible implementation sites for bioretention facilities or rain catchment systems. Students determined that implementing a bioretention facility would be the best solution in order to filter the high volumes of runoff created by the University’s many parking lots. A project site at the south end of UMD’s Lot 1 was selected as an ideal location for filtering pollutants and locally improving stormwater management. The proposed site is a long grass swale adjacent to multiple parking lots and has over 2.5 acres of impervious land area draining into it. The bioretention facility in this location will filter much of the polluted runoff coming from this impervious land, making a significant environmental impact in the nearby creek of Gilford Run.
Many organizations are working towards restoring the Anacostia Watershed to a healthy ecosystem, but a coordinated community effort is needed in order to completely revitalize the Anacostia. This project aims to serve as a model of environmental responsibility for other communities in the Anacostia Watershed area.