The Department of Public Works protects, enhances, and restores the City’s waterways. By federal and state regulation, Baltimore City must not only manage the amount of stormwater runoff that goes down our drains but also ensure that it is cleaner when it reaches our waterways.
Stormwater picks up oil, sediment, bacteria, trash, and other pollutants and sweeps it into the closest storm drain, but by managing stormwater we can improve water quality and reduce flooding. In addition to maintaining inlets and pipes to direct the runoff, DPW is installing stormwater facilities (also known as Best Management Practices, or green infrastructure) to improve the quality of our polluted streams and Harbor. These services are funded by revenue from the stormwater fee, listed on your water bill.
Getting to Know Your Waterways
Baltimore City has approximately 59 miles of coastline and 116 miles of streams, including the Jones Falls, Herring Run, and Gwynns Falls. However, this represents a fraction of what was originally a network of small streams and creeks that were piped and paved over as the City developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these streams were either entirely buried or significantly covered, like Harris Creek (originally running from Patterson Park to the Harbor) and the Gwynns Run. Replacing these historic streams is a storm drain infrastructure, primarily installed prior to 1950, that includes:
Additionally, Baltimore City consists of five watersheds. A watershed is an area where water drains into a waterway. These watersheds are:
- Back River
- Baltimore Harbor
- Jones Falls
- Gwynns Falls
- Lower North Branch of the Patapsco River (LN Branch Patapsco)
You may also explore more information on watersheds and the City’s waterways.
Many environmental groups are working to improve water quality in local streams and the harbor. These include:
- Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
- Blue Water Baltimore
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Chesapeake Bay Trust
- Civic Works
- Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake
- Living Classrooms
- National Aquarium
- Parks & People Foundation
- Waterfront Partnership