Bush River Watershed Characterization
Harford County has received Federal grant funding to prepare a Watershed Restoration Action Strategy (WRAS) for the Bush River Basin. The WRAS is a cooperative effort between non-profit environmental groups and federal, state and local agencies to develop ways to protect and restore the Bush River watershed.
As part of the WRAS process, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has provided technical assistance by preparing a Watershed Characterization of the Bush River. This document is a starting point for the restoration efforts. It presents a synopsis of existing water quality data, land use data, living resources and habitat data, along with providing restoration-targeting tools for the watershed.
The water quality data indicate that a majority of the sub-watersheds in the Bush River are on Maryland’s 303(d) List of impaired waters. These listings mean that pollution associated with nutrients, suspended sediments and toxic materials are preventing full use of these waters based on State water quality criteria. Each impairment has been assigned a priority based on, but not limited to, the severity of the problem and the threat to human health and high value resources.
Land in the Bush River Basin has significant concentrations of development. Overall, the basin is about 35% developed. The most developed sub-watershed is Bynum Run at 53%, and the least developed is Bush River at 25%. Water quality is affected by the landuse and landuse changes each watershed. In an effort to gauge these affects, and to allow comparisons between watersheds, DNR developed a series of Landscape Indicators and ranked each sub-watershed in the Bush River basin. These indicators include percent Impervious Surface, Population Density, Historic Wetland Loss, percent Unbuffered Streams and Soil Erodibility.
Living resources, which include all the animals and plants that call the land and waters of the Bush River watershed home, are being affected by human activity. For instance, aquatic organisms are sensitive, in varying degrees, to changes in water quality and aquatic habitat, so selected species of underwater grasses; macroinvertebrates and fish were used as indicators to gauge local watershed conditions. The information summarized in the report suggests that the significant stresses on living resources in the watershed are manipulation of habitat, excessive movement of sediment and excessive availability of nutrients.
Agricultural Conservation Programs, Clean Marinas Programs, Fish blockage removals, continued monitoring and Stream Corridor Assessments are some of the targeting tools DNR recommends for watershed improvements. The County currently utilizes a number of these, but the increased implementation of these programs is necessary in order for the waters of the Bush River to meet State water quality criteria.
For more information or a printed copy of the Bush River Watershed Characterization, please contact 410-638-3545 or visit www.dnr.state.md.us.