Watershed Regulations FAQs

Here are responses to some Frequently Asked Questions regarding the regulations for WSSC’s watershed properties surrounding the Triadelphia and T. Howard Duckett (Rocky Gorge) reservoirs. These reservoirs serve as primary sources of drinking water for approximately one-third of WSSC’s 1.8 million customers. The regulations are available on the website.  https://www.wsscwater.com/watershedregs 

Why does WSSC charge a fee to use the watershed?  Isn’t it public land?
What are the hours for the watershed properties?
During bad weather, how will you notify users whether the watershed is open or closed?
How can I learn more about what is going on around the watershed properties?
Is there a discount on Watershed permits for people over the age of 65?
Are there any people who don’t need to buy permits to use the watershed?
Why are persons picnicking being required to purchase a permit?
If I purchase a Watershed Use Permit, do I also need to purchase a Picnic Permit?
Do WSSC employees have to pay for a watershed permit?
Does WSSC plan to form volunteer groups to help maintain and patrol the watershed?
Where are horseback riders allowed to ride?
Why does WSSC require boaters, including people in canoes and kayaks, to wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)?
Why does WSSC prohibit Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) on the reservoirs? 
Why does WSSC prohibit “Unauthorized cutting, trimming, clearing of trees, branches, and flowers?”
Why do you close the multipurpose trail to horseback riders during the winter?
Why do people or stables who own property adjacent to the watershed need special permits to access the WSSC watershed property directly from their lots?

Why does WSSC charge a fee to use the watershed?  Isn’t it public land?

While WSSC is a public agency, the watershed property is considered private property as it was specifically purchased with ratepayer dollars to provide a protective buffer area for the reservoirs which are a source of drinking water. Anyone found to be on WSSC watershed property who does not have a WSSC-issued permit is trespassing. 

What are the hours for the watershed properties?fall - leaves off the trees at Brighton dam

Daily hours in season are from sunrise to sunset.

During bad weather, how will you notify users whether the watershed is open or closed?

We will have a “hotline” much like a ski resort.  Just call (301) 206-4FUN (4386) and select option 1.

How can I learn more about what is going on around the watershed properties?

WSSC maintains bulletin boards at each recreation area to update users about new activities or potential threats. Important updates regarding recreation area closers, stewardship projects, etc. are also posted on our website www.wsscwater.com, as well as on our public Facebook Page - WSSC Watershed Recreation.   

Is there a discount on Watershed permits for people over the age of 65?

Yes. The permit is free of charge. You still must obtain the permit, though. To obtain your complimentary Seasonal Watershed Use Permit, you need to visit us at one of the following locations:  

  • Brighton Dam Visitor Center, 2 Brighton Dam, Brookeville, MD 20833 open every day from 7:00 am to sunset from March to October and November to February from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, telephone number 301.206.7485.
  • Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Cashier’s Office, 14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel, Maryland 20707 open from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.
  • Complimentary permits must be obtained and renewed in person at one of these two locations.

Are there any people who don’t need to buy permits to use the watershed?

Children under 16 don’t need a permit, but they must be with someone who does have a permit.  People 65 and older or disabled military veterans and active military on leave will receive complimentary permits.

Why are persons picnicking being required to purchase a permit?

There are costs associated with removal of trash left by people participating in picnics. WSSC has tried to make the fee fair by only requiring one person participating in a picnic to obtain a Picnic Permit. The cost is directly proportional to the number of people participating. One permit for every 6 individuals between the ages of 16 and 65.

If I purchase a Watershed Use Permit, do I also need to purchase a Picnic Permit?

No.  A Watershed Use Permit allows the holder to: bird watch, boat, picnic, fish, hike, ride a horse, and hunt on the Watershed in authorized areas and during authorized times. Fall on the water at Brighton Dam

However, purchase of a Picnic Permit does not authorize a person to participate in any activity except a picnic.

Do WSSC employees have to pay for a watershed permit?

No.  Employees can still receive complimentary watershed use permits.  However, their spouses and children 16 years old and older must buy a permit. This is a change from past practices.

Does WSSC plan to form volunteer groups to help maintain and patrol the watershed?

These are two different issues. We already coordinate a lot of volunteer work on the watershed to, for example, work on trails, clean culverts and plant trees, and will continue to do so. 
Organizing volunteer patrols to report inappropriate activities or other problems on the watershed is something we are considering as we develop an overall watershed management program.

Where are horseback riders allowed to ride?

Our watershed map highlights trails, parking areas, and access points. 

Why does WSSC require boaters, including people in canoes and kayaks, to wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)?

It’s a matter of safety.  According to the Coast Guard, 70 percent of the fatal accident victims drowned, and of these, 84% were reported as not wearing a life jacket. Eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using boats less than 21 feet in length.

Picnic table area at Brighton DamWhy does WSSC prohibit Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) on the reservoirs? 

WSSC’s watershed regulations prohibit surfboards, stand up paddleboards, windsurfers, or any craft which facilitates frequent body contact with water in the reservoir. This decision comes from the fact that WSSC's reservoirs are not lakes with gently sloping sides and flat bottoms, they are deep reservoirs with steep drop-offs and submerged hazards that contribute to the number of accidental drownings that occur on the watershed.  The purpose of our reservoirs is to provide a secured source of drinking water for over 600k of our customers, and we are obligated to protect them. 

Why does WSSC prohibit “Unauthorized cutting, trimming, clearing of trees, branches, and flowers?”

The intent is to keep people from again cutting new unauthorized trails on the watershed. Horseback riders are certainly free to use common sense and trim branches that could hurt a rider or horse moving down a trail.

Why do you close the multipurpose trail to horseback riders during the winter?

It was specifically recommended in the EA Engineering study, based on the winter diurnal cycle.  That’s the repeated freezing of the ground at night, then thawing during the day - making the ground softer and more susceptible to erosion.

Why do people or stables who own property adjacent to the watershed need special permits to access the WSSC watershed property directly from their lots?

Adjacent landowners who would like the convenience to access WSSC Watershed property from their private property should purchase an adjacent landowner permit, to legally enter the watershed.  Any member of the public with a watershed use permit can access the watershed properties from designated access points at the recreation areas. Applications for a Boarding Stable Entrance Permit and Adjacent Landowner Entrance Permit are only available at the WSSC’s Production Team Office, located on the second floor of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Building, 14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel, Maryland 20707 or by calling 301.206.4FUN and select option 2. 

Last Modified: