Blueprint Progress: Tracking Milestones

Midpoint Milestone Infographic

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's midpoint assessment of the principal Bay states' work toward implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint documents progress but also finds troubling trends.

At the end of the first half, it’s clear that Maryland and Virginia are carrying the team—mostly by tackling wastewater. As the clock counts down to 2025, we know the second half is going to be tougher. We will not see a restored Chesapeake Bay unless all three states and their federal partners expand their playbooks and push harder. See where things stand, below, and then take a look at some of the current and future challenges we face and what we need to do to overcome them.

ABOUT THE MIDPOINT GOALS

In December 2010, EPA in collaboration with the six Bay states and the District of Columbia established the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the science-based limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and the state-specific clean-up plans to achieve those limits.

The Bay jurisdictions agreed to fully implement their plans by 2025. In addition, each committed to a midpoint assessment of progress in 2017. At this midpoint, practices should be in place to achieve 60 percent of the necessary pollution reductions. See the chart below for an evaluation of how well jurisdictions met their midpoint goals.

In early 2018, EPA released the data needed to determine whether the 2017 midpoint-assessment goal was met. Specifically, the agency released modeled estimates of the pollution reductions resulting from practices that were implemented in all the Bay jurisdictions between 2009 and 2017.

Watershed wide, the states missed the nitrogen pollution-reduction goal, achieving only 40 percent of the needed reductions. The biggest shortfall is in Pennsylvania, but in all jurisdictions, reducing polluted runoff from urban and suburban areas is also off-track.

On the positive side, the data indicate that the practices in place have helped achieve pollution-reduction goals for phosphorus and sediment. More importantly, there is scientific consensus that our pollution-reduction efforts are working. Underwater grasses continue to thrive, with acreage in 2017 setting yet another record. In addition, dead zones are shrinking, the oyster population is rebounding, and in places water clarity is better than it has been in a long time.

BEYOND THE NUMBERS

CBF evaluated progress toward 2017 midpoint goals. First, we looked at state-specific estimates of pollution-reduction progress. This assessment, however, only tells part of the story. We also wanted to understand which policies and programs added to this progress or contributed to any shortfalls. To that end, we evaluated whether the jurisdictions implemented key policies, programs, and funding committed to in their clean-up plans. These actions have a direct effect on the success or failure of achieving the pollution-reduction goals from wastewater, agriculture, and urban and suburban stormwater.

Overall, we found:

  • Maryland has achieved its overall 2017 goals for phosphorus and sediment but still falls short on nitrogen reductions. This progress was achieved largely by relying on reductions from wastewater. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from urban and suburban areas and nitrogen pollution from septic systems continue to increase. Nitrogen reductions from agriculture are also off track.
    See Maryland's Progress
     
  • Pennsylvania has missed its overall 2017 goals for reducing nitrogen and sediment by wide margins but has come close for phosphorus. Significant progress has been made reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plants, but challenges remain in reducing polluted runoff from urban and agricultural areas.
    See Pennsylvania's Progress
     
  • Virginia has achieved its overall 2017 goals for nitrogen and phosphorus reduction but did not reach its goals for sediment. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from urban and suburban areas and nitrogen pollution from septic systems continue to increase. Nitrogen reductions from agriculture are also off track. On the positive side, Virginia has exceeded its pollution-reduction goals for wastewater and achieved its phosphorus pollution goal for agriculture.
    See Virginia's Progress

 

2017 MIDPOINT PROGRESS TOWARD POLLUTION REDUCTIONS

By 2017, practices should have been in place to achieve 60 percent of the 2025 pollution reduction goals. Here's a look at how the watershed jurisdictions performed.            Key

Nitrogen Phosphorus Sediment
ALL STATES
ALL
SOURCES
     
DEDelaware
Agriculture
 
     
U&S
Polluted Runoff
   
Wastewater
& CSO† †
    N/A*
ALL
SOURCES
     
 
DCDistrict of Columbia
Agriculture
 
N/A* N/A* N/A*
U&S
Polluted Runoff
     
Wastewater
& CSO† †
    N/A*
ALL
SOURCES
     
 
MDMaryland
Agriculture
 
     
U&S
Polluted Runoff
     
Wastewater
& CSO† †
    N/A*
ALL
SOURCES
     
NOTES:
Nitrogen: According to the Maryland Department of the Environment, if the reductions associated with the recent upgrade to the Back River sewage treatment plant, the largest plant in Maryland, were included, the overall 2017 nitrogen reduction goal would have been met.
 
NYNew York
Agriculture
 
     
U&S
Polluted Runoff
     
Wastewater
& CSO† †
    N/A*
ALL
SOURCES
     
 
PAPennsylvania
Agriculture
 
     
U&S
Polluted Runoff
     
Wastewater
& CSO† †
    N/A*
ALL
SOURCES
     
 
VAVirginia
Agriculture
 
     
U&S
Polluted Runoff
     
Wastewater
& CSO† †
    N/A*
ALL
SOURCES
     
 
WVWest Virginia
Agriculture
 
     
U&S
Polluted Runoff
     
Wastewater
& CSO† †
    N/A*
ALL
SOURCES
     

Key

red Did not achieve
yellow Within 5% of achieving
green Achieved

 

* No contribution from this source sector
Urban & Suburban
† † Combined Sewer Outflow

Pollution-reduction progress is assessed with modeled estimates of the pollution-reduction benefits from implemented practices such as upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, best management practices like cover crops and streamside forested buffers on agricultural lands, and stormwater practices in urban areas like rain gardens. Progress in each sector for the three pollutants is compared to the 60 percent by 2017 goal.

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