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Total Area: 2,464 acres (3.8 mi2)
Average Imperviousness: 31%
Population: 23,600
Population Density: 6,210/mi2
Wetlands: 0.3 acres
Forest Cover: 22%
Deciduous: 250.4 acres
Coniferous: 45.6 acres
Mixed: 161.7 acres
Shrub/Scrub: 97.63 acres
Local Watershed Group: Watts Branch Watershed Alliance

Watts Branch is a largely free-flowing tributary to the Anacostia River. Watts Branch enters the Anacostia River in the southeast portion of the District of Columbia. The subwatershed is generally bound by Deanwood Road/Eastern Avenue and Rollins Avenue to the north and east, Benning Road/East Capital Street to the south, and the Anacostia River to the west. Watts Branch is located within both Prince George's County and the District of Columbia, with the headwaters portion located in the former. The Capitol Heights tributary is the only major, open, Watts Branch tributary remaining.

Dominant Land Uses: Dominant land uses in the subwatershed include residential (70%), forest cover (12%), and parkland (8%).

Physical Characteristics: The Watts Branch subwatershed is approximately 2,463 acres (3.8 mi2) in size and approximately 31 percent impervious. This level of imperviousness is among the highest in the Anacostia watershed and is approximately 10 percent higher than the average for the 14 major subwatersheds. Watts Branch is located within the Coastal Plain physiographic province. Geologically, the Coastal Plain portion of the Anacostia watershed is characterized by largely unconsolidated sedimentary deposits of sands, gravels, silts and clays.

Biological Characteristics: Watts Branch is designated as a Use I stream (i.e., suitable for water recreation and support of aquatic life) by MDE and as a Class 'B','C', and 'D' ('B'=secondary contact and aesthetic enjoyment; 'C'=protection and propagation of fish, shellfish and wildlife; and 'D'=protection for human health related to consumption) by the District of Columbia Department of the Environment (DDOE). Seven (78 percent) out of the nine Watts Branch Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) main stem sampling stations were rated as having either non-supporting or partially supporting physical aquatic habitat conditions present. The condition of macroinvertebrate populations in the upper, middle and lower main stem is very poor. The lower Watts Branch main stem supports a modest fish community, comprised by approximately 15 species of which 13 are pollution tolerant. The main stem is open to both resident and migratory fishes up to 49th Street. Currently, there are no macroinvertebrate and/or fish community-related sampling data for the Capitol Heights tributary.

Several physical barriers to both resident and anadromous fish movement and migration are present within the Watts Branch system (e.g., concrete channelized stream sections, perched road culverts, enclosed stream sections, etc). These, as well as other barriers have been identified and remain as a restoration challenge for this subwatershed. It should be noted that the District of Columbia has made a concerted effort to reduce stormwater runoff impacts, restore main stem instream habitat, replace and or rehabilitate old leaking sewer lines, reforest riparian corridors, and reduce trash loads in the subwatershed.

Condition Summary: Watts Branch is an older, heavily developed subwatershed within the Maryland and District of Columbia portions of the Anacostia watershed. It was developed well before stormwater management controls became mandatory. The dozen or so existing stormwater BMPs collectively control only about 95 acres, total. They are largely represented by underground sand filters, small pond-type systems, infiltration trenches and water quality inlets. The small stormwater pond systems are found in the Prince George's County portion of the subwatershed. Approximately 22 percent of the total subwatershed area is forested, and roughly 20 percent of the stream miles have an adequate riparian forest buffer (i.e., 300-foot total width). Initial indications are that far more comprehensive stormwater retrofitting and stream restoration efforts in the upper, middle and lower main stem areas are needed to restore the aquatic ecosystem of the Watts Branch subwatershed. Planned future projects include, but are not limited to: stormwater management focusing on the employment of low impact development (LID) and environmentally sensitive design (ESD), aquatic and terrestrial habitat restoration, wetland creation, riparian reforestation, invasive plant management, and potentially additional fish reintroductions.

To get involved in protecting your Anacostia subwatershed contact The Watts Branch Watershed Alliance.