A Tale of Two Streams
Mattawoman Watershed Society
7601 Oxon Hill Road
Oxon Hill, Maryland 20745
Co-authors: Soren Powell, George Wilmot, Jim Long
An unusual breadth of data exists for two tributaries to Mattawoman Creek in Charles County that permits a comparison
of the consequences of land use on water quality and living resources. The data were collected in part because the streams
traverse a wooded area that was subject to a controversial development proposal, which was averted in 1998 when the state
responded to a campaign to save Chapman Forest by purchasing the 900-hectare tract as Chapman State Park.
Comparison of the two tributaries, designated here as the “north” and “south” streams, is facilitated because their watersheds
share a boundary, are comparably sized, and possess similar physiogeography. However, land use differs significantly. The
north stream drains the town of Bryans Road, while the south stream is primarily forested. A synthesis of reports on these
streams from both the private and public sectors appears to provide a notable case study for illustrating the deleterious effects
of urbanization on aquatic resources.
As indicated by continuously monitored sediment and nutrient loadings for three sub-watersheds, water quality degrades as ur-
banization increases. Biological integrity also declines: (i) the index of biotic integrity for benthic macroinvertebrates falls with
increased subwatershed urbanization; (ii) fewer resident fish species occur in the more urbanized stream; and (iii) spawning
River Herring are absent in the north stream, in contrast to the less disturbed south stream, which is visited by both Blueback
and Alewife Herring.
Despite this knowledge, there are plans to urbanize the higher quality stream, illustrating the difficulty in conserving high qual-
Bonnie Bick is a citizen activist working to protect and preserve forests which in turn protect the water quality that humans, and in fact all life,
depend. She believes that all citizens have a responsibility to help save their local watersheds, and that this responsibility is an essential part of the
Chesapeake Bay Agreement. She is an advocate of ecological economics and the science of conservation biology and water quality monitoring as
guides for environmental activists. She is active with the Sierra Club, the Mattawoman Watershed Society, and the Chapman Forest Foundation.