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 2015 2015
2017 Interim Goal 2025 Goal
Nitrogen 85.03 68.13 59.02 58.59 58.8 52.59
Phosphorus 11.58 8.67 6.62 6.55 7.31 6.4
Sediment 4896.35 3742.92 3661.55 3482.85 3448 3251.38
Go to Virginia's WIP website >>

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

Virginia 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 Virginia'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 VA
Download the Virginia 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.

Although Virginia is currently on track to meet many of the 2017 pollution reduction goals, this milestone review clearly indicates numerous opportunities exist to increase practice implementation and improve water quality. With continued growth in both agriculture and the urban landscape, every opportunity for implementation of pollution-reduction strategies must be identified. These opportunities must be seized or else the solid foundation that Virginia has worked hard to build may begin to erode.

Virginia has made sound investments in its pollution-reduction activities that are leading to water-quality improvements throughout the state. These investments include hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade wastewater treatment plants, funding for urban pollution-reduction strategies, and an increase in farm conservation practices. These activities have laid a solid foundation for the state to build on past success and to now focus on those pollution-reduction strategies that require higher implementation rates in order to ensure success.

This analysis clearly shows that Virginia has opportunities to speed the pace of implementation and ensure the state remains on track for 2025. Once again, Virginia’s emphasis on stream fencing shows how a focused and funded strategy can be successful. However, both the number of streams still without fencing and the interest by the agricultural community indicate that opportunities abound for further implementation of this practice.

This milestone review also highlights the need to increase the pace of pollution reduction in the urban landscape. As often mentioned, this is the only significant source of pollution still increasing. Virginia has recently established a Stormwater Local Assistance Fund in order to assist localities in implementing urban practices to improve water quality. In addition, many localities have adopted stormwater utilities to help fund practices that are so important to local water quality.

Assessment of Virginia's High Priority Pollution-Reduction Practices

check mark On track        x Off track

icon - agricultureAGRICULTURE

Stream Fencing check mark

On the surface, it appears Virginia has already exceeded its 2017 target. But now for the rest of the story: The number of Virginia streams needing livestock fencing has been significantly underestimated. In addition, the Commonwealth currently has a backlog of farmers interested in using cost-share programs to implement stream fencing on their operations. That’s good news for the Bay, local waters across the state, and farmers because preventing livestock access improves herd health, protects streambanks, and keeps manure and sediment out of streams.

Action Needed: Virginia must fully fund the “backlog” of needs for stream fencing and ensure regulatory programs prevent stream access.

Streamside Buffers x

Buffers provide many habitat and water-quality benefits for local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, Virginia’s implementation of these important conservation practices is losing steam and must be accelerated in order to reach both the 2015 and 2017 implementation goals. This is especially true for grassed buffers that are commonly implemented on agricultural lands. Although the news is better for forested buffers, where the state has reached approximately 40 percent of its 2015 goal, implementation must be increased dramatically in order to meet the 2017 goals.

Action Needed: Virginia should ensure that limited agriculture cost-share dollars are focused on the most cost-effective practices, particularly forest and grass buffers.

Animal Waste Management Systems

Over one million livestock live in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and the Commonwealth’s poultry industry is growing. With a lot of animals naturally comes a lot of manure and litter. Proper storage and handling of livestock manure is achieved through the implementation of animal waste management systems (AWMS). To date, however, Virginia has only reached 14 percent of what was needed from 2013 to 2015 to reach the 2015 milestone target and is also off-track for 2017. This pace, coupled with an increase in poultry houses in the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia’s Eastern Shore in the past two years, demands Virginia’s attention.

Action Needed: Virginia should identify long-term, stable sources of revenue for agriculture cost-share practices.


icon - urban/suburban runoffURBAN/SUBURBAN

Urban Stormwater Infiltration Practices
x Stormwater is the only major source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay that is increasing. Infiltration practices that allow polluted runoff to soak back into the ground, as opposed to running off, are critical to nitrogen and phosphorus reductions by cities and residential areas because they are among the most effective at reducing pollution. Virginia has achieved its 2015 milestone goal, unfortunately, this pace is woefully inadequate to achieve their 2017 goal. Important state programs like the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund provide an opportunity for Virginia to incentivize the urban sector to implement infiltration practices.
Action Needed: Virginia should accelerate completion of the final six Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits for localities in Hampton Roads and fully fund local government cost-share needs through the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund.

Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website

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.


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. Virginia has built a solid foundation in meeting its Blueprint commitments, but much work remains to be done.

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.


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 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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