Waterkeepers are the heart of our organization. Waterkeepers Chesapeake is a coalition of 18 independent Waterkeeper programs working to make the local waters of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays swimmable, fishable and drinkable. We amplify voices of each Waterkeeper and mobilize these organizations to fight pollution and champion clean water. The scope of our work centers on the rivers, streams, creeks and bays of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays Watersheds that are protected by our 18 Waterkeepers. This includes a 64,000 mile watershed and a population of more than 18 million people throughout the states of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. Working together we can better position our local efforts to also have regional impacts.
Clear Choices Clean Water Chesapeake Bay is an affilitate campaign of the national Clear Choices Clean Water campaign. The campaign started in Indiana in 2010. The Tippecanoe Watershed Foundation, the White River Alliance, and the Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis Center for Earth and Environmental Science teamed up to implement this unique strategy to increase awareness and knowledge about residential yard choices and their impacts on water quality in our watersheds. Although the focus began in Indiana, it is spreading across the country and the pledge choices are continuing to grow.
Blue Water Baltimore - Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper
Potomac Riverkeeper Network - Potomac Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper
ShoreRivers - Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper, Sassafras Riverkeeper, Chester Riverkeeper
Arundel Rivers Federation - South Riverkeeper, West-Rhode Riverkeeper
James River Association - James Riverkeeper
Assateague Coastal Trust - Assateague Coastkeeper
The Chesapeake Bay Cleanup
The first multi-state agreement to clean up the Chesapeake Bay dates back to 1983. But by 2008, after three more agreements, the region was still decades away from the goal of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Recognizing that the Chesapeake Bay was a national gem that needed federal support, President Obama signed an executive order in 2009 directing agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help the Bay states restore clean water. That same year, the Chesapeake Executive Council set short-term restoration goals—called two-year milestones—to hasten restoration and increase accountability.
Chesapeake Bay TMDL and Watershed Implementation Plans
In 2010, the EPA established the landmark Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The Chesapeake Bay TMDL set limits on the amount of nutrients (phosphorous and nitrogen) and sediment that can enter the Bay and its tidal rivers to meet water quality goals. These limits are often referred to as a “pollution diet” or a “pollution budget.”
To restore the Bay, we need to reduce 25% of the nitrogen loads, 24% of the phosphorus and 20% of the sediment. While the Bay TMDL sets the target, it’s still up to the states to decide how to get there. Each state writes a series of Watershed Implementation Plans, with the tools and best management practices that will reduce its pollution load to meet the Bay TMDL pollution reductions by 2025. Federal, state and local governments coordinate through the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership to develop the WIPs. The third WIPs were issued the spring of 2019.
Still Much Work to be Done to Meet Targets
The dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay is most pronounced in the deep waters of the Bay's main stem during warm summer months. The average size of the dead zone is approximately 1.89 cubic miles, or nearly the volume of 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools. Between 1985 and 2010, the duration of the dead zone fell from five months to four, suggesting efforts to manage nutrient pollution through upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, cuts to vehicle and power plant emissions, and reductions in runoff from farmland are working. While rainfall and weather patterns affect the development of the dead zone, nutrient pollution is the foremost factor in its growth. In addition to dead zones, excess nutrients in the water and the resulting algae blooms can result in the production of algal toxins and strange tastes and smells in drinking water.
You Can Help Restore the Bay
The choices we make everyday can impact the health of our local waterways. Some of the most difficult pollution to control is the polluted runoff from our roads, parking lots, yards and farms. Whenever it rains, trash, oil, dirt, fertilizer, and loads of other pollutants run into our local rivers and streams – and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. What you do matters. This is one reason behind Waterkeepers Chesapeake’s Clear Choices Clean Water Campaign designed to increase awareness about choices we make and the impact they have on our rivers and streams. Individuals, adults and kids, are encouraged to pledge to either start, or continue, good behaviors that make a difference for water quality and for water conservation. Our interactive map will show how much pollution is reduced by your action and will show the collective impact of thousands of pledges across our region.