Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

Pennsylvania's Watershed Implementation Plan

in millions of pounds per year
Pennsylvania 1985 2009 2014 2015
2017 Interim Goal 2025 Goal
Nitrogen 124.28 116.64 117.01 108.68 94.05 79
Phosphorus 5.96 4.98 4.44 4.23 4.14 3.57
Sediment 2998.75 2644.07 2618.07 2322.96 2224.77 1945.23

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

Go to Pennsylvania's WIP website >>

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 June 2014, EPA evaluated Pennsylvania's progress to date. Their findings are summarized here.

Urban Runoff            
Wastewater & CSO            
All Sources            


    On track for 2017 target       Within 10% of being on track for 2017 target
    More than 10% off track for 2017 target       *No contribution from this source sector

Combined Sewer Outflow

Chart based on data from the Chesapeake Bay Program's 2014 Reducing Pollution Indicator:


2015 Milestones PA
Download the Pennsylvania Milestones 2014-15 Interim Report


To track progress toward achieving these goals, each jurisdiction established interim, two-year cleanup goals called Milestones, which would be publicly reported beginning January 2011. Two-year Milestones and progress reports are a critical tool to hold the states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly accountable.

In July 2015, CBF and the Choose Clean Water Coalition (CCWC) released an analysis of each state's progress toward achieving its 2014-2015 Milestones. The goal of this analysis—which focused on the highest priority pollution-reduction practices for each state—was to determine whether the state's progress is sufficient to allow it to achieve 60 percent implementation by 2017.

Pennsylvania has approximately 19,000 stream miles impaired by various forms of pollution. Nearly half of Pennsylvania drains to the Chesapeake Bay, which means local pollution is carried downstream. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint may be our last and best hope to restore the Bay and our local streams, by providing strategies to communities, businesses, and farmers for the adoption of practices that will reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution.

Pennsylvania has had great success in implementing agricultural pollution-reduction practices in the last 30 years. However, in recent years, this pace has waned. Pennsylvania has fallen significantly behind in meeting its milestones for agriculture and stormwater practices. Meanwhile, the wastewater treatment sector has exceeded their obligations. There is still time for Pennsylvania to get back on track to meet 2025 targets.

The Commonwealth should ensure all farmers are meeting requirements to keep nutrients and top soil on the land instead of polluting our rivers and streams, and improve tracking, reporting, and verification of pollution-reduction practices. Pennsylvania should also increase financial and technical assistance for all core practices, including to the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program to support various conservation efforts.

Assessment of Pennsylvania's Progress on High Priority Pollution-Reduction Practices

x Off Track         slightly off track Slightly Off Track

icon - agricultureAGRICULTURE

Forest Buffers x

Forest buffers prevent pollution from entering our waters, provide wildlife habitat, increase a stream's capacity to cleanse itself, and stabilize streambanks to prevent further erosion and reduce flooding.

Pennsylvania is not on track to meet its 2015 milestone commitment and only one-quarter of the way toward its 2017 goals.

Action Needed: Increased outreach and education about buffer benefits, with sufficient technical and financial assistance, are needed, along with innovative approaches, such as targeting resources to areas with greatest potential benefits or prioritizing limited conservation funds toward projects where buffers will also be established.

Conservation Tillage slightly off track

Conservation tillage keeps soils and nutrients in place and out of waterways. It reduces the labor and fuel needed for crop cultivation. And it results in healthier soils that perform better during droughts and sustain long-term productivity.

Pennsylvania is making steady progress implementing this cost-effective practice and is on-track for its 2015 milestone though slightly off track for its 2017 goal.

Action Needed: Increased outreach and technical and financial assistance can ensure increased adoption of this practice. Also, efforts are needed to track conservation tillage activities done without assistance from agencies that submit data to be credited in the Chesapeake Bay model.

Nutrient Management x

Nutrient Management Plans guide manure application so that the valuable nutrients are provided at the correct rate, time, and place for crop growth, rather than running off into streams and rivers or leaching into groundwater.

Pennsylvania is off-track toward meeting both its 2015 and 2017 goals. This poor progress is troubling because these plans form the basis for other practices, such as manure storage and pasture management.

Action Needed: A dedicated source of funding and technical assistance to help farmers with plan development and implementation should lead to increases in this practice.


icon - urban/suburban runoffURBAN/SUBURBAN

Urban Stormwater Infiltration Practices x

Infiltration practices capture and store rainfall and surface runoff. These practices reduce pollutants from entering our waterways, increase groundwater recharge, and decrease the volume of stormwater runoff.

Pennsylvania is relying heavily on the practices to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment from stormwater runoff, but is falling short. With a mere three percent of the 2015 goal met, it will be difficult to get back on track and meet the 2017 goal.

Action needed: Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection should promote regional stormwater authorities to local governments as a sustainable option to implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.


Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website

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.

The Clean Water Blueprint will only work if all sources of pollution do their fair share. The Blueprint includes measures for accountability, deadlines for achieving pollution reductions, as well as consequences, such as requiring further costly reductions from wastewater treatment plans, for failing to meet them.

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


Apathy, finger-pointing, anti-Bay legislation and lawsuits, powerful interest groups, and a bad economy all threaten to derail the collaborative local/state/federal Bay cleanup. Yet most experts consider this the Chesapeake Bay's best, and perhaps last, chance for real restoration. The problems have been identified; we have the know-how and tools to fix them; and the benefits of a restored Chesapeake Bay manifestly outweigh cleanup costs. If we work together to make the pollution limits work, many scientists believe the Chesapeake Bay will reach a tipping point when improvements outpace pollution and the Bay rebounds exponentially.

Pennsylvania has been a partner in the effort to restore the bay since the early 1980s. During that time, progress has been made in improving many local streams and reducing pollution that flows from the Commonwealth's rivers and streams into the Bay.

Nonetheless, roughly 19,000 miles of streams and rivers in Pennsylvania remain polluted from the legacy of coal mining, dirty water running off streets, parking lots, lawns, and farms, from poorly treated wastewater, air pollution, and other sources. Much work remains to be done.

Today, Pennsylvania lags significantly behind other Bay states in meeting its targets for agriculture and stormwater practices. There is still time for Pennsylvania to get back on track, but much work remains to be done.


The decline of the Bay has cost our region billions of dollars in lost jobs, revenue, and resources and threatens to be a continuing drag on local and state economies for years to come. To find out more about the economic impact of the Bay to the region, see the following CBF reports:

Debunking the "Job Killer" Myth: How Pollution Limits Encourage Jobs in the Chesapeake Bay Region (pdf)

The Economic Argument for Cleaning Up the Bay and Its Rivers (pdf)

Oyster Report: On the Brink (pdf)

Bad Waters and the Decline of Blue Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay (pdf)

Bay pollution also threatens public health. To read more about health threats, see CBF's report Bad Water 2009: The Impact of Human Health in the Chesapeake Bay Region (pdf)

You can find the EPA pollution limit documents on the EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL 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 2017, Pennsylvania and the other Bay states are to submit a Phase III WIP which will focus on ensuring that all practices are in place by 2025 as need to fully restore the Bay and its tidal waters.

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