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map of Cecil and Chesapeake Bay WatershedA watershed is a drainage area. Each stream has its own drainage area, or watershed. All small streams flow into larger streams.

Therefore, the watershed of a small stream is within a larger watershed.

The majority of Cecil County is located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay, is about 200 miles long, and the width varies from 4 to 35 miles wide. The land area of this watershed is 64,000 square miles. The average depth of the Chesapeake Bay is 21 feet, but most parts are much shallower. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed  includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The image to the right is available by CLICKING HERE.


Within Cecil County, the Chesapeake Bay watershed is composed of the Upper Eastern Shore watershed and the Upper Western Shore watershed. Nested within these two larger watersheds are 14 smaller 8 digit watersheds. 8 digit watersheds are on average approximately 90 square miles of drainage area.

map of Watersheds

One portion of Cecil County, the Christina River watershed, drains to the Delaware Bay. The Delaware Bay is about 133 miles long. It includes New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the small portion of Cecil County Maryland.

Which watershed do you live in?

Knowing which watershed you live in is important because you will be able to graphically see how all of the water from an area drains ultimately to the same place. Because all the water drains to the same place, everyone using the water is affected. Obtaining this understanding that one negative action, or point source pollution, affects everyone else negatively within the watershed is very important. For example, illicitly dumping septic effluent into a storm drain system will result in an increased nutrient load. Furthermore, a combination of many small negative actions, or non-point source pollution, will also accumulate into a major water quality problem. For instance, having many minor earth disturbances within a watershed will result in increased erosion and more turbidity in local streams and rivers. 

You can query where you live within a watersheds by going to the Cecil County GIS website. To navigate this website, follow the subsequent steps:

  • Click on "Planning" link.
  • Click on the "Map Contents" drop down arrow.
  • Expand the "+" box next to"Planning."
  • Expand the "+" box next to "Environmental Features" tab.
  • Put a check mark in the box next to "Sub-Watersheds."
  • Click on the "Find Address" button and insert where you live into the box that appears. Important Note: Please note that address prefixes and suffixes must be entered using the standard United States Postal Code abbreviations.
  •  The results of the find address search will then be displayed in the "Results" menu. Click on the "+" box next to the phrase "Find Addresses," and then again in the "+" box next to the phrase "Address Points," to expand the results such that you can see the data that was found.
  • Insert a check mark in the box next to the address and a blue push-pin will appear on the map in the location of the address. You can then zoom in on the address by using the "zoom in" tool on the toolbar or by right clicking over the address and choosing "zoom to."
  • For additional assistance, click on the "Help" link in the top right hand corner of the page.

Also, please visit Maryland's Surf Your Watershed and EPA Surf Your Watershed websites for even more information about your watershed.

What is an impaired watershed?

An impaired watershed is an area where water quality standards are not met. Examples of standards include dissolved oxygen, nutrients, sediments, bacteria, metals, and other toxic contaminants. As mandated by the Clean Water Act, the state of Maryland must address impaired water bodies in a list every two years. The Maryland Department of the Environment's assessment of impaired water bodies in Cecil County is available by CLICKING HERE.