Frequently Asked Questions

List of questions:

-What is a watershed?

-How to you pronounce Mattawoman?

-Where does the name Mattawoman come from?

-Isn't a creek a small stream?

-What is the symbol that appears in my browser tab?

-Why do you say "fish love forests"? 

-In the revolving pictures on the home page, what is the meter reading?

-What is impervious surface?

What is a watershed?

The land that drains, or sheds rainwater into a stream is called the stream's watershed. For an example, see our Tale of Two Streams, which maps the boundaries of the watersheds for two adjacent Mattawoman tributaries. 

How do you pronounce Mattawoman?

Mat' a woman

Where does the name Mattawoman come from?

A scholar of place names has determined that Mattawoman comes from the Algonquin term Mataughquamend, translated as where one goes pleasantly.

The Algonguin Mataughquamend, in turn, appears on John Smith's classic map based on his explorations of the Chesapeake Bay region in 1608. 

Isn't a creek a small stream?

While creek often refers to a very small stream in some parts of the country, in the Atlantic Coastal Plain, it usually designates a tidal estuary, along with the river that feeds it.  Mattawoman Creek is a seven mile long estuary fed by a 20 mile long river, with a watershed of about 94 square miles! 

What is the symbol that appears on my browser tab?

If you use Firefox or Chrome, and are using the URL, a symbol appears on the tab at the top of our web pages. It shows a fish in the crown of a tree. It represents one our messages: fish love forests!

Why do you say "fish love forests"?

Forest is the best land cover to protect aquatic quality for many reasons. These include: moderating the amount of stormwater runoff (a forest evaporates and "transpires" more than half of rainwater back to the air!); filtering runoff with leaf litter; slowing the speed of runoff; cooling the runoff with shade; shading small streams; providing branches and leaves to streams that widen and slow the water and increase habitat diversity; providing the mix of nutrients to our streams that nature intended, and more. No wonder fish love forests!

In the revolving pictures on the home page, what is the meter reading? 

The meter is reporting dissolved oxygen, in units of milligrams per liter, or mg/L.  Healthy water contains oxygen absorbed from the atmosphere, and as a byproduct of photosynthesis in submerged plants.  Like ourselves, aquatic life requires oxygen, which is extracted from the water through gills. Fish become stressed when dissolved oxygen falls below 5 mg/L.  A level less than 3 mg/L is often lethal!

An unusual situation occurs in Mattawoman, where the low dissolved oxygen (DO) occurs in beds of submerged aquatic vegetation. A possible cause for the low DO is the abundant algae growing in the beds. When bacteria consume decaying algae, their breathing robs the water of oxygen. Too much algae, in turn, is caused by excessive nutrient pollution. 

Excess nutrient pollution and low DO is often a signature of watershed over-development, such as promoted by Charles County's land-use policies. 

What is impervious surface?

One often encounters the term "impervious surface" in discussions of the adverse effects of urbanization on aquatic resources. These are hard surfaces like roofs, roads, and parking lots that are impervious to stormwater infiltration. Stormwater (including snowmelt) rushes off these surfaces in erosive and heated flows. Extensive research find that aquatic life suffers, and some even disappears entirely, when about 10% of a watershed is covered with impervious surface. After that, expensive restoration efforts are unable to achieve previous levels of integrity. 

Forested land, by contrast, allows stormwater to soak into the soils rather than rapidly filling streams. For more, see the figures on our webpage here.

A few of the "creeks" on the tidal Potomac River in Maryland.

Another way to express that fish love forests.

Dissolved oxygen level of 2.2 mg/L, a level lethal to most fish.

Stormwater collecting pollutants on an impervious parking lot that will be delivered to a nearby stream.