Pennsylvania's Watershed Implementation Plan

Collectively, the EPA's TMDL and the state Watershed Implementation Plans establish the Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake. 

Pennsylvania and the other six Bay jurisdictions agreed to create state-specific plans to implement 60 percent of their Bay cleanup practices by 2017 and 100 percent by 2025. These plans are called Watershed Implementation Plans or WIPs and will not only help restore the Bay, but will also significantly improve the health of local waterways.

in millions of pounds per year
Pennsylvania 1985 2009 2014 2016
2017 Milestone 2025 Goal
Nitrogen 124.28 116.64 117.01 113.08 106.04 79
Phosphorus 5.96 4.98 4.44 4.25 4.15 3.57
Sediment 2,998.75 2,644.07 2,618.07 2,434.49 2,191.00 1,945.23

Fact Sheet: Pollutants of Concern & Pa.'s Role in the Bay Cleanup

Go to Pennsylvania's WIP website >>

In early 2011, EPA approved Pennsylvania's "Phase I" WIP dated January 11, 2011. Upon review, however, EPA cited several deficiencies in Pennsylvania's Phase I WIP that resulted in EPA proposing "backstops" to assure pollutant reductions in the plan would be achieved.

The next step in the process was the development of a Phase II WIP. In general, this plan is supposed to bring the effort to a more localized level, such as a county. Pennsylvania's Final Phase II WIP was provided to EPA March 30, 2012. 

In 2018, Pennsylvania and the other Bay jurisdictions are to submit a Phase III WIP which will focus on ensuring that all practices are in place by 2025 to meet the Bay TMDL restoration goals.


Two-year milestones provide transparency and accountability for restoration efforts. In June 2017, CBF released its assessment for the first year of the 2016-17 milestone period. The assessment looked at the practices Pennsylvania put in place in 2016, as well as selected programs it has designed to acheive long-term goals. Download the report

Pennsylvania's Progress Toward 2017 Milestones

Nitrogen Phosphorus Sediment
Agriculture red red yellow
U&S Polluted Runoff red red red
Wastewater & CSO† † green green green
Septic red N/A* N/A*
All Sources red yellow yellow


red Off-track by more than 10 percent
yellow Off-track by less than 10 percent
green On-track


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


Program Milestone: Develop and implement an agricultural compliance and enforcement strategy.
Because agriculture dominates much of the landscape of the Chesapeake watershed in Pennsylvania, it contributes a significant portion of the nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. The Blueprint relies on ensuring that all farms develop and follow plans, required since the 1970s, to keep nitrogen, phosphorus, and soil on the land.
To that end, DEP pledged to work with County Conservation Districts over the next 10 years to verify that farms in the Bay watershed have the required plans. With funding provided by the Chesapeake Bay Program and other sources, staff visited 1,125 farms from October 2016 through March 2017, an inspection rate below what is needed to achieve the annual goal of visiting 10 percent of farms. However, the pace of inspections has quickened now that the process is more established.  Most of the farms visited had not previously worked with Conservation Districts, so they were more likely to have lower planning rates than the general farm population. Of farms required to have plans, 70 percent had manure management plans, and 68 percent had erosion and sediment control plans. These inspections, however, only assess whether the required plans exist, not whether they address water-quality concerns, are fully implemented, or help farms meet production goals—a major shortfall of state efforts to date.
Program Milestone: Implement a methodology to count, report, and verify best management practices that are installed voluntarily.
Historically, progress on Blueprint implementation was based on reported data regarding conservation practices established with assistance from public agencies. Many farmers, however, adopt practices on their farms independent of public financing. A recent Penn State survey documented a high volume of previously uncounted conservation practices, including several hundred thousand acres under nutrient management, and nearly 6,000 acres of forested streamside buffers that were previously undocumented. Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s remote sensing analysis estimated 370 waste storage facilities, 295 heavy-use area protections, and many other conservation practices in the Potomac River watershed in Pennsylvania. These data are critical to assessing true progress; however, because these surveys provided confidentiality to farmers, future tracking efforts may have difficulty avoiding double counting practices.
Although implementing the Blueprint is a challenge, the benefits to our region’s economy, society, and environment far surpass the costs. For example, streamside buffers reduce runoff and flooding. Cover crops and conservation tillage reduce nutrient and sediment runoff, while improving crop production. Healthy streams provide opportunities for fishing, and other recreational activities. According to CBF’s 2014 Economic Report, the value of these natural benefits in Pennsylvania is estimated to be over $6 billion greater with Blueprint implementation.


Program Milestone: Reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment coming from urban and suburban runoff.
The urban and suburban stormwater runoff sector has remained under backstop actions and enhanced oversight for being off-target since EPA began evaluating progress towards the 2025 goals. It is the only sector to be off-track by more than 10 percent for all three water-quality pollutants—nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. In its watershed implementation plan, Pennsylvania committed to stormwater reductions of 41 percent in nitrogen, 45 percent in phosphorus, and 50 percent in sediment; however, progress as of 2016 indicates reductions of only 1 percent, 8 percent, and 5 percent, respectively.

Program Milestone: Improve municipal stormwater permits.
To jumpstart reductions, DEP has recently added specific pollution-reduction goals in the new permit for the 206 small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) in the watershed. Starting in 2018, MS4s will be required to reduce loads of nitrogen by 3 percent, phosphorus by 5 percent, and sediment by 10 percent to meet their Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan goals. The addition of the numeric reduction requirement gives municipalities a target to achieve over a five-year period to reduce the pollutants that degrade local waters and the Chesapeake Bay. In past MS4 permits, DEP did not require the municipalities to make specific numeric reductions. MS4s only had to demonstrate that they were making incremental progress toward reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment.


Program Milestone: Implement permit limits for wastewater discharge.
Pennsylvania’s real success story in meeting Blueprint goals lies in the wastewater sector. Wastewater treatment plants have installed technologies or purchased credits that reduce their contribution to nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. By 2015, this sector had already exceeded its 2017 goals. Wastewater treatment plants have  exceeded goals to the extent that phosphorus reduction across all sectors combined is considered only slightly off-track.

Lack of progress in the agricultural and stormwater sectors, however, may mean more reductions from wastewater will be required. In past reviews of the Commonwealth’s progress, EPA has indicated further reducing allowable amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in discharge permits is an option. We encourage the Commonwealth to avoid this outcome by accelerating its efforts to reduce pollution from agricultural and urban sources.


A key component of Pennsylvania’s Reboot Strategy is the commitment, led by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, to plant 95,000 acres of streamside forested buffers. With agricultural and stormwater sectors not meeting Pennsylvania’s pollution-reduction targets, accelerating the implementation of streamside buffers is crucial. Streamside buffers—trees and shrubs planted along streams—are one of the most cost-effective practices for reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in both rural and urban landscapes. A renewed focus on installing new buffers and preserving existing ones is more important than ever. Otherwise, EPA may require additional measures, such as comparatively more costly upgrades to wastewater treatment plants.

Recently, DEP put out their “Game Plan for Success” to develop Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), that describes actions to be taken from 2019 to 2025. We are encouraged by many elements of the game plan, especially the inclusion of funding and local area planning in the process. To get Pennsylvania on track, continuous, collaborative, and meaningful input and buy-in from vested stakeholders, such as key agricultural leaders, local governments, and conservation organizations, will be critical. Leadership from Pennsylvania’s elected officials, including those in the Governor’s office, as well as strong federal support from the Chesapeake Bay Program to coordinate agencies and stakeholders is crucial.

You can track progress for all Bay jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, on EPA's Chesapeake Stat website. On EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL website you can read about progress already being realized.

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