Drinking Water Source Protection

WSSC uses a multi-barrier approach to ensure that we supply safe, reliable and high-quality water to customers. The first step of this approach is protecting the sources of our drinking water, the Patuxent and Potomac rivers.

One challenge we face is that the water in these rivers comes from areas far upstream, where there are multiple land uses and potential pollution sources. Due to the size of the watershed surrounding these two rivers, it is important for WSSC to form partnerships with regulatory and administrative agencies for each river. This allows us to participate in discussions related to land use policy and ensure source water protection is promoted. These partnerships are also important for raising awareness among partners about our concerns related to water quality and safety.

WSSC is a member of two Source Protection partnerships, one for each of river.

The Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership is coordinated by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB). Visit the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership to learn more about partnership and workgroup priorities and activities.

The Patuxent Reservoirs Watershed Protection Group was established in 1996 to cooperatively protect the long-term biological, physical and chemical integrity of the Patuxent Reservoirs and their watershed. These two reservoirs are created by WSSC’s Brighton Dam and T. Howard Duckett Dam.  View the group’s annual reports to learn more about challenges and areas of focus.

What we do to protect our sources of drinking water

WSSC actively manages a forested buffer that surrounds our two reservoirs to reduce the amount of pollutants reaching the source of drinking water for one-third of our 1.8 million customers. This pollution comes from new development, fertilizers and pesticides, soil from erosion, manure from farms and waste from birds, deer, horses and pets. The 6,000 acres of watershed recreation area were purchased with funds from WSSC customer accounts.  While we all love the beauty and opportunities offered at the watershed recreation areas, our goal is to protect the quality of our source water. That’s why we close the watershed during the wetter winter months when there is less foliage and ground cover to reduce erosion and runoff.

WSSC also regularly reviews the management of the watershed recreation areas in a comprehensive manner with a goal to understand how our actions or inactions can impact the forested buffer and water quality. This involves reviewing access, fees and fines as we seek to continually improve water quality, strengthen watershed security and establish responsible rules governing public access.

What you can do to protect sources of drinking water

While WSSC has a role in managing the land around our two reservoirs, we cannot manage all the land in our 1,000-square-mile service area or the land in neighboring counties and states.  You can help protect local sources of drinking water by:

  • Picking up litter and placing it in covered trash or recycling bins
  • Using fertilizers and pesticides sparingly and always following the directions
  • washing your car at a car wash, not in the driveway or street
  • keeping leaves out of storm drains
  • using road salt sparingly during winter weather
  • picking up after your pet
  • planting ground cover to prevent erosion of bare soil on your property
  • never hosing spilled automotive fluids into the street where they will run into the storm drain

Protecting local sources of water is not only vital to ensuring that WSSC has high quality water for our customers, but also s in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have programs to help homeowners manage the stormwater on their property and assist in protecting local water ways and the Chesapeake Bay.

Watershed Recreation Area

WSSC’s watershed recreation program allows visitors access to six watershed recreation areas, which include picnic facilities and over 16 miles of shoreline fishing and interior recreation trails. All users must purchase a permit to enter and use the facilities.

Watershed Study

In 2012, EA Engineering completed an independent study of our 5,600-acre portion of the Patuxent River watershed.  Presentations made to WSSC commissioners can be found below.

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