Bay Journal July/August 2020 Features Gunpowder Riverkeeper


 2017 Harford County Annual MS4 Water Quality Report

Annually, Harford County is required to submit a program summary to Maryland Department of the Environment or MDE. The summary outlines the County’s progress towards improving the health of local streams and Chesapeake Bay.

There are 13 watersheds in Harford County. A watershed is comprised of the hills and valleys that drain into a single river, stream, or lake. These smaller tributaries then drain into 4 major river basins: the Bush River, Gunpowder River, Lower Susquehanna River, and the Upper Western Shore. 

In turn, all of the waterways in Harford County, from small farm streams to the whitewater of the Gunpowder, ultimately drain into the Chesapeake Bay.

Bush River Watershed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Restoration Plan for PCBs August 2017

A map of the watersheds in Harford County. For more information visit Maryland Environmental Resource & Land Information Network (MERLIN) 

Stormwater Control

Harford County has a Stormwater Management Division, responsible for monitoring stormwater controls at new developments.

Harford County follows the Maryland Department of Environment Stormwater Design Manual for best management practices at new developments and construction sites,  but has few other measures in place to address stormwater pollution.

The County’s stormwater remediation fee was repealed in 2015. The fee was intended to fund needed maintenance and improvements to existing stormwater management facilities and to reduce erosion and the flow of polluted runoff into local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

Without this fee to correct existing problems, the money must be taken from other parts of the budget. The lack of funds also means the projects will take a very long time to complete, during which time the damage to public and private property will continue.

Loss of wetlands and uncontrolled stormwater runoff contribute to flooding in Harford County.


Wetlands perform essential ecological functions for our community. They provide habitat, filter pollutants, absorb water and reduce flooding. Wetlands are especially important in Harford County because our waterways directly affect the health and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.

Read more about wetlands

FOH position paper on Bill 16-002 affecting wetlands & Natural Resource Districts. The bill passed and became law in March 2016.  As a result, non-tidal wetlands less than 40,000 square feet in size (about 1 acre) are no longer considered Natural Resource Districts and can be disturbed or altered by development.

Chesapeake Bay Resources

  • BayStat: A Maryland government site presenting information on the health and status of our restoration efforts baywide and in each of the 10 Tributary Basins.
  • Eyes on the Bay: Useful data, reports and newsletters on the bay and its tributaries.
  • Green Infrastructure Plan: A partnership with the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition to restore water quality in Harford and Baltimore creeks and rivers that discharge to the Bay . 
  • Watershed Restoration Action Strategies (WRAS): page has plans for Bush River and Deer Creek Watersheds. 
  • Gunpowder River KeeperGunpowder RIVERKEEPER® (GRK) is a grassroots, advocacy based membership organization charged with protecting, conserving and restoring the Gunpowder River and its Watershed.GRK works to strengthen ties within the communities that benefit from this vital water resource by engaging in outreach activities, which have an inherent stewardship message that transcends economic, social and educational boundaries.GRK is the 18th WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE® program in the Chesapeake region and takes responsibility for protecting and conserving the Gunpowder river and its watershed for the benefit of the public.GRK also strives to create partnerships among existing non-profits in the Chesapeake Bay Region that share its goal of protecting, conserving and restoring the Gunpowder river and its environs for all users.
  • Foster Run Development GPRiverkeeper CRZ 2017

To report an environmental emergency (Sewage overflow, Fish Kill, and/or Sediment Pollution) in the Gunpowder  Watershed, please call (866) 633-4686. Follow the instructions below per Gunpowder River Keeper

If you are in a safe area:

1. Take pictures

2. Document the time and note the conditions on the site

3. When calling the phone # (above) note the:
Waterway impacted
Pollution problem
Nearest crossroad or landmarks

4. Be sure to:
Ask for your complaint #
Ask that the MDE compliance staff call you back with a follow-up report on the site.  

5. Send along the complaint, complaint # and supporting photos to us-we’ll followup when we return.