Halfway to 2025: Is Clean Water Blueprint on Track to Save the Bay?

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has just released its midpoint assessment of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, an agreement made between the primary Bay states to reduce pollution by 2025. CBF Senior Naturalist, and longtime Chesapeake Bay Magazine contributor, John Page Williams, breaks down the state of the Clean Water Blueprint at its halfway point exclusively for Bay Bulletin.



How’s our Chesapeake’s health? We’re glad you asked. In 2009, the six Chesapeake watershed states, the District of Columbia, and the EPA together agreed to a Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint to restore our Bay, rivers, and streams by 2025. To keep the partnership on track, it sets up two-year milestones and a Midpoint Assessment halfway through the period. The EPA Chesapeake Bay Program conducted that analysis this winter.

This week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released its evaluation of the Midpoint Assessment results. The bottom line: The Blueprint is working. We’re on the right track. But there’s a lot of work yet to do. Remember this is only the midpoint. Nobody quits at halftime.

Good stuff: Water quality is improving. The dead zone is getting smaller. Scientists documented record Bay grass acreage again last year. The oyster population is improving.

Most of the progress in Maryland and Virginia has come from upgrading sewage treatment plants, and Pennsylvania has improved there too. Remarkably, the Clean Air Act has helped as well. Reductions in oxides of nitrogen from our tailpipes and power plants have cut pollution significantly.

But: The recovery is fragile. While Maryland and Virginia are largely on track to meet overall
midpoint pollution-reduction goals, Pennsylvania falls far short of the mark. All three major Bay states are behind in reducing agricultural and urban runoff, with Pennsylvania lagging especially badly in both categories.

Many farmers are working miracles to reduce runoff pollution. They deserve serious credit.
Overall, agricultural pollution is decreasing. But so much of our watershed’s land is in
agriculture (remember, there are 18 million of us to feed, and counting) that all farmers must
participate. Meanwhile, the one pollution source still increasing is urban and suburban runoff.
We know the second half—2018 to 2025—is going to be tougher. The Chesapeake Clean Water
Blueprint beats all previous attempts because it has enforcement teeth. But our states and federal partners will have to expand the effort and push harder if we are to save our Bay and its rivers and streams.

The Bay jurisdictions are building Blueprint action plans for the second half. They will have to
include handling additional pollution coming across the Conowingo Dam. Starting in 2022, they will begin offsetting effects of climate change. Ditto more septic systems, more livestock, and increased vehicle emissions from a human population that continues to grow.
We’ve gotten some solid scores, but nobody quits at halftime. We’ve got the heart to finish
strong. Don’t we?

In the short video below, CBF’s Beth McGee breaks down the Bay states' collective successes and setbacks.

Want to learn more and help out? Click here.

Bay Bulletin