Changing Hydrology for the Better

The effects of changing hydrology on wetlands have caught my attention this week. When I first came to Maryland, I remember hearing there are no natural lakes, a story repeated as this odd factoid about Maryland. Every body of water we have, that doesn’t move, is man-made. And here in Columbia, we have three large lakes: Lake Kittamaqundi, Lake Elkhorn, and Wilde Lake. We also have a number of smaller ponds, and Jackson Pond is about a five-minute walk away.

These are absolutely non-natural. These are overgrown drainage ditches that the Rouse Company wisely turned into amenities. Jackson Pond has a small marshy area where the stream dumps into it. At the far end, a weir allows water to dump out back into the stream…or rather, is the headwaters of a new stream. Between the two points, a few hundred meters of distance provides space for pollutants to settle out.

But these wetlands also provide another important purpose. Columbia is a designed city and was designed in the mid- to late-1960s. This was the same time flood mitigation became a national issue. Each of these ponds and waterways, our 3000+ acres of dedicated open space, is unbuildable, anyway. It’s all floodplain! It’s kind of a neat trick. We get protection from the environmental hazard and a greener, more pleasant place to live.

In the end, this is a story about how changing hydrology, when done purposefully and carefully, can be a good thing!

Image by Patrick Gillespie / Flickr.