Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

Virginia's Watershed Implementation Plan

Get information about your local cleanup strategies >>

Virginia's Constitution and state water control law require protection of waterways. View Article 11 of Virginia's Constitution that calls for Virginia waters to be protected from pollution. Read key Virginia water quality monitoring and cleanup laws.

in millions of pounds per year
Virginia 1985 2009 2012 2017 Interim Goal 2025 Goal
Nitrogen 85.03 68.13 61.25 58.73 52.46
Phosphorus 11.58 8.67 8.18 7.35 6.46
Sediment 4896 3743 3540 3448 3251
Go to Virginia's WIP website >>

In 2010, after decades of voluntary efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay failed to remove it from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of "impaired" waters, EPA established an enforceable pollution limit known as a "Total Maximum Daily Load" (TMDL) for the Bay and its tidal rivers. The TMDL, a provision of the Clean Water Act, is a scientific estimate of the maximum amount of pollution the Bay can tolerate and still meet water quality standards. Pollution reduction by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia is essential to cleaning up the Bay.

Subsequently, Virginia and the other six 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. Collectively, the TMDL and the WIPs establish the Cleanwater Blueprint for the Chesapeake.  

How Much Progress Has Been Made?

Since 1985, Virginia and the Bay states have achieved a little less than half the pollution reductions necessary to meet Bay restoration goals. These reductions appear to be working, as a recent study of actual conditions in the Bay by the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University showed that the size of the Bay's oxygen-starved "dead zone" has shrunk specifically because of efforts from the Bay states, including Virginia.

But the work is far from done.

Virginia's Two-Year Milestone Progress

To track progress toward achieving the 2017 and 2025 deadlines for implementing the Cleanwater Blueprint the Bay states and the District of Columbia agreed to establish interim, two-year cleanup goals called Milestones, and to publicly report progress toward achieving them beginning January 2011. The two-year Milestones and progress reports are a critical tool to hold the states and EPA publicly accountable.

On May 30, 2013, EPA provided its interim assessments on the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions' progress toward meeting their 2012-2013 Milestones and Watershed Implementation Plan goals.

On July 8, 2013,CBF and Choose Clean Water (CCW) released an analysis of selected Milestones. The goal of this analysis was to ensure that commitments were met, and if not, that actions are taken to compensate for any shortfall.

The evaluation of Virginia's two-year Milestone progress shows the Commonwealth continues to make progress in implementing its Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint for five of the eight practices evaluated. Virginia falls short, however, on modern stormwater practices, grass buffers, and conservation tillage.

Virginia milestones chart 2012

Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website

View the complete report (PDF 556 KB)

It is expected that progress on wastewater improvements will continue; therefore, the current, as well as, the next administration must now focus on Milestone commitments Virginia has yet to be fully successful with implementating. Continuing significant investments in farmer incentive programs and implementing a long-promised tracking program for under-reported agriculture practices is important.

Virginia can also take a leadership role in reducing urban sources of pollution by accelerating development of local stormwater programs and fostering innovation in stormwater practices and financing. Virginia's efforts to report on Milestone progress provide a clear path for making the adjustments necessary to succeed in restoring the Bay and our rivers and streams.

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

What Obstacles Does the Cleanup Face?

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.

Still, more than 12,000 miles of streams and rivers in Virginia and most of the Chesapeake Bay remain polluted from 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.

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:

2012 - Debunking the "Job Killer" Myth: How Pollution Limits Encourage Jobs in the Chesapeake Bay Region (pdf)

2012 - The Economic Argument for Cleaning Up the Bay and Its Rivers (pdf)

2010 - Oyster Report: On the Brink (pdf)

2008 - 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)

So after decades of still-unsuccessful efforts to restore the Bay, EPA established a pollution limit, the TMDL, in 2010 that aims to reduce Bay pollution by approximately 25 percent. The six Bay states and the District of Columbia are each required to do their part.

You can find the EPA pollution limit documents on the EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL website.

Developing Virginia's Clean Water Blueprint

In 2010, EPA approved Virginia's "Phase I" WIP.

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.

For much of 2011, the 96 Virginia localities whose creeks and streams drain into the Bay researched the best, most cost-effective strategies to further reduce pollution in their local waterways. If these localities clean and restore their local waters, Virginia should achieve its share of the Baywide pollution limits. Virginia localities were submitted their local cleanup strategies to the Commonwealth, which compiled the local plans. Virginia submitted its "Phase II" WIP to EPA March 30, 2012. 

In 2017, Virginia 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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