Ellicott City– Soak It Up Campaign

What is polluted runoff?

Parts of the Chesapeake Bay watershed contain a high percentage of impervious cover – paved or other hard surfaces such as roofs and roadways that prevent rain water from being absorbed into the ground.  Instead, water runs along these surfaces, collecting trash and substances such as motor oil, lawn fertilizers, and pesticides.  This polluted stormwater flows into streams and rivers, where it threatens aquatic ecosystems and public health.

Effective stormwater management, on the other hand, creates safe paths for polluted runoff to be captured and filtered through the ground before it reaches waterways.  This helps keep the environment clean and our communities healthy!

before image
First rain garden installation near the New Cut Branch stream which drains down to historic Ellicott City. Photo credit: Lori Lilly
after image
The rain garden’s first storm! Photo Credit: Lori Lilly


Project Location: Ellicott City, MD

Problem: During major storm events, an Ellicott City neighborhood located along Hunter Road experienced significant flooding. The stormwater drained into the city’s historic district, and the flooding was exacerbated by the uphill funneling of runoff into the community and Main Street located downstream. Private residential neighborhoods were seeking solutions to help manage the stormwater runoff, and the Howard County government responded by making projects easier and more affordable.

Solution: With the help and guidance of Howard EcoWorks, residents engaged in educational seminars, volunteered for projects, and helped create water management structures, including beautiful rain gardens. Rain gardens clean dirty water and hold it during storms, allowing the water to soak back into the ground and slowly return clean water to areas downstream. Property owners participating in Soak It Up paid 25% of the cost of the projects with the remaining portion covered or reimbursed.

The Soak it Up Campaign won 2nd place in the 2019 “BUBBA’s” awards.

Project Size: 250 square foot garden

Long-term Goal: Replace 700 acres of turf grass with deep rooted plants

Partners: Howard EcoWorks, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Howard County Government

Funding Sources: Chesapeake Bay Trust; National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Howard County Government Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund; Private homeowners

Howard EcoWorks: buff.ly/2KttlBw
Chesapeake Stormwater Network BUBBA Awards: buff.ly/2P2m0wO

Contact Information
Lori Lilly | llilly@howardecoworks.org
Key project facts
Project Type
Project Scale
< $10,000
Story Focus
Cost Efficiency
Environmental Benefits
Community Engagement
Environmental Education
Stormwater Funds
Problem Addressed
Flooding / Drainage
Runoff Pollution
Year Installed
State Legislative District
Federal Legislative District
MD 7th