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To provide a reliable supply of clean, safe drinking water, it's vital for WSSC Water to protect our water sources: The Potomac River and the Patuxent River.

Protecting our sources of drinking water

WSSC Water uses a multi-barrier approach to protect our supply of water, the Potomac and Patuxent 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 the rivers, it's important for WSSC Water to form partnerships with regulatory and administrative agencies for each river. This allows us to participate in discussions related to land use policy, promote source water protection and raise awareness about water quality and safety.

WSSC Water belongs to these water source protection partnerships:

  • The Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership is coordinated by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB). To learn more about partnership and workgroup priorities, visit the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership.
  • 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 Water’s Brighton Dam and T. Howard Duckett Dam. Read the group's annual reports to learn more.

What we do to protect our drinking water sources

WSSC Water actively manages a forested buffer around our two reservoirs, which provide water for about 600,000 of our 1.9 million customers. The buffer helps to reduce the amount of pollution from new development, fertilizers and pesticides, manure from farms and other sources. The 6,000 acres of watershed recreation area, which were purchased with funds from WSSC Water customers, is closed during the wetter winter months because there is less foliage and ground cover to reduce erosion and runoff. WSSC Water regularly reviews its management of the watershed recreation areas to understand how our actions impact the forested buffer and water quality.

6,000 acres of watershed recreation area protecting the source water for 1/3 of our customers

View our Service Area

What you can do to protect drinking water sources

While WSSC Water 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 our sources of drinking water by:

  • Picking up litter and placing it in covered trash or recycling bins
  • Using fertilizers and pesticides sparingly
  • Washing your car at a car wash, not in your driveway or in the 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 hose spilled automotive fluids into the street where they will run into the storm drain
  • Join our crew of Patuxent Watershed Protectors to keep the land around our two drinking water reservoirs on the Patuxent River trash-free.

Protecting local sources of water is vital, to ensure WSSC Water has high-quality water for our customers and to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. 

Find watershed recreation areas

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

Learn more about the Watershed Recreational User Program

Learn more about protecting our watershed

You can learn much more about our water sources and protecting our watershed by clicking on the links below:

Watershed Study

In 2012, EA Engineering completed an independent study of our 5,600-acre portion of the Patuxent River watershed. The presentation made to WSSC Water commissioners is found below.

Study Findings and Recommendations

Last Modified: September 28, 2023, 1:54 pm EDT