Harford County's Bureau of Stormwater Management conducts studies to identify stream water quality problems on a watershed basis. Activities that occur on the land that drains to the stream impact the water quality within that stream. Likewise, problems upstream or downstream can impact other problems. Therefore, it is essential to understand the dynamics of the entire watershed in order to develop a restoration plan.


Many types of watershed studies exist. They vary from costly computer modeling and water quality monitoring to simple visual observation. While the costs for these studies vary greatly, each study essentially uses the same basis for developing a study plan. Each study determines existing conditions within the watershed, assesses the problems, and prioritizes the problems.

Watershed studies can also be completed on a variety of scales from very large such as the Chesapeake Bay to very small. Harford County has completed many watershed studies for the major streams in the County at a scale of approximately 20,000 acres. Prioritizing and implementing restoration at this scale with measurable improvements to water quality has been difficult. Therefore, watershed studies are now completed on a small scale basis and vary between several hundred acres but up to several thousand acres.

Various solutions exist for addressing each type of problem. These solutions can be either structural controls or non-structural controls. Structural controls can include the construction of a stormwater wetland or stream restoration, or the planting of trees along the stream channel. Non-structural controls are programs that encourage responsible water resources management practices. Some of these practices include grass cycling or mulching, proper fertilizer and pesticide application, and oil and antifreeze recycling.

Harford County has recently completed Small Watershed Assessment Plans (SWAP) for Foster Branch, Sam’s Branch, Plumtree Run and Wheel Creek.

Assessment Archives