Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay Watershed

The Chesapeake Bay watershed spans more than 64,000 square miles, encompassing parts of six states—Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—and the entire District of Columbia. More than 18 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The land-to-water ratio of the Chesapeake Bay is 14:1—the largest of any coastal water body in the world. This is why our actions on land have such a big impact on the Bay’s health.

Pollution Diets

Communities throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed are making significant progress restoring and protecting the health of local waterways and the bay. On Dec. 29, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)– sometimes called a “pollution diet”– a historic and comprehensive cleanup plan to guide federal, state and local actions as their communities clean up the Chesapeake Bay and the connected streams, creeks and rivers. Specifically, in Virginia, the TMDL calls for a 20.5% reduction in nitrogen, 25.2% reduction in phosphorus and 20.8% reduction in sediment delivered to the bay. The objective is to have clean up practices, known as best management practices or BMPs, in place by 2025 to reach the goal of a clean Chesapeake Bay and local waterways that meet water quality standards!

BMPs can involve practices such as green infrastructure (permeable pavement, rain gardens, rain barrels, etc.), septic repairs or wastewater infrastructure upgrades, living shorelines, or even riparian buffers. What all these practices have in common is their ability to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. This allows Virginia to get even closer to meeting their TMDL goals.

Watershed Implementation Plans

Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) are the roadmap for how Bay states and the District of Columbia, in partnership with federal and local governments, will attain the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. Bay states are working with local stakeholders to implement the third phase of their WIPs. The Phase III WIPs includes an update of state and federal strategies and the identification of new pollutant reduction strategies with a special focus on sustained local engagement and strategies.

Community Participation

GWRC includes 3 major river basins– the Potomac, Rappahannock, and York Rivers. Every choice that community members make can impact the waterbodies we live next to, recreate on, and use as drinking water sources. To learn more about clean water and ways to get involved with river stewards in PD16, visit the Rappahannock Roundtable and Friends of the Rappahannock‘s websites. To learn more about water quality within the Potomac River watershed, visit the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and the Potomac Conservancy website. To learn about the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers that feed into the York River Basin, visit the York River and Small Coastal Basins Roundtable website.

Our Watershed

Examples of Pollution Sources