Improved management of roadside ditches may present an underused, cost-effective opportunity for improving water quality in the Chesapeake region, according to a new report from an advisory committee of scientific experts.

Ditches that run alongside roads and highways may not be the first image that comes to mind when considering water quality. But the thousands of miles of roadside ditches in the Bay region can have a significant impact on the health of local waters—contributing to flooding, pollution, erosion and degraded habitats. In the report, experts from the Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) explore the subject and suggest potential means to improve ditch management in the region.

Enhancing the design and maintenance of roadside ditches could help Bay Program partners meet the water quality goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, the report suggests. Among the report’s recommendations are the creation of a comprehensive roadside ditch management program, increased awareness through education and outreach efforts, and the targeted use of best management practices, or “BMPs.”

The report, Re-plumbing the Chesapeake Watershed: Improving Roadside Ditch Management to Meet TMDL Water Quality Goals, is available on the STAC website.



Ed Zygmunt

This report is right on. Many local townships and state highway departments still haven't learned how to properly design and maintain roadside ditches to minimize soil erosion and the resulting sedimentation that eventually makes it way to the Bay. Also, many landowners with driveways on inclines also have significant erosion problems that wind up sending sediment down their nearby roadside ditch. And most are completely oblivious to the environmental impact. We have a big learning curve to conquer.

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