Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

Washington, D.C.'s Watershed Implementation Plan

What is a Watershed Implementation Plan?

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, Washington, D.C. 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.  

in millions of pounds per year
Washington, D.C. 1985 2009 2012 2017 Interim Goal 2025 Goal
Nitrogen 6.17 2.88 1.78 2.57 2.37
Phosphorus 0.09 0.07 0.07 0.10 0.12
Sediment 17 17 18 17 17
Go to the District of Columbia's WIP website >>

How Much Progress Has Been Made?

Since 1985, D.C. and the Bay states have achieved slightly more than half of the nitrogen pollution reductions and two-thirds of the phosphorus and sediment reductions necessary to meet Bay restoration goals. These reductions appear to be working, as a 2013 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 the District.

But the work is far from done.

D.C.'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.

In January 2014, the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions' submitted their   progress toward meeting their 2012-2013 Milestones and Watershed   Implementation Plan goals to EPA.

On June 11, 2014, CBF and Choose Clean Water (CCW) released an analysis of selected 2013 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.

An evaluation of Washington, D.C.'s two-year milestone progress shows the District has exceeded its 2013 goals for four out of six of the practices selected for evaluation and has met both nitrogen and phosphorus pollution reduction goals.

icon - urban/suburban runoffURBAN/SUBURBAN

Urban Tree Planting check mark The District continues to exceed its milestone goals, although a redoubling of efforts is necessary to reach the Sustainable D.C. Plan goal of 8,600 new trees planted each year by 2032.
Stormwater (Polluted Runoff) Infiltration Practices check mark While the District annually surpasses its milestone goals for traditional polluted runoff practices, overall nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution from urban runoff are not on track to meet 2017 and 2025 target reductions.
Stormwater (Polluted Runoff) Ponds x The District's new polluted runoff rule, released in July of 2013, instituted performance standards for superior retention on large development sites. This will lead to greater runoff reductions when the rule soon goes into effect.
Street Sweeping x According to the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) data, two percent fewer streets were treated in 2013 than in 2011, but the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) raised concerns that this was inaccurate. We commend the District for exceeding its 2025 deadline requirement early in 2010, but we call on CBP and DDOE to work together to ensure consistency in reported data.
Impervious Surface Reduction check mark The Sustainable D.C. Plan calls for 75 percent of the District's landscape to capture rainwater for filtration and reuse by 2032. The District's Department of the Environment is accelerating the pace in its 2014-2015 draft Milestones. This will address the significant commitments in D.C.'s Watershed Implementation Plan to reduce or retrofit impervious surfaces. This reduction will be instrumental toward mitigating growing urban runoff rates.
Urban Stream Restoration check mark This milestone was exceeded, though D.C. saw no increase in stream restoration between 2012 and 2013 due to permitting obstacles. DDOE will restore roughly 28,000 additional square feet by 2016. D.C. has made honorable commitments to restoring and planting an additional 50 percent of wetlands that will provide resiliency in riverside and streamside communities.

 Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website

View the complete report

In addition, DC Water's Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant will undergo a large scale capital upgrade in 2015 that will result in the achievement of its 2017 nitrogen-reduction goals. The plant has already achieved its 2025 pollution-reduction goal for phosphorus. However, the D.C. Metro Area's population is projected to grow by approximately two million people over the next 20 years, which means that pollution from stormwater runoff will increase, if left unabated.

Washington, D.C. has made substantial long-term commitments to increased tree plantings, impervious surface reductions, and urban stream restoration and must consider adopting stronger milestone goals to meet them. The Nation's Capitol must redouble efforts to reduce water pollution to achieve its 2017 and 2025 Watershed Implementation Plan goals and strive to be a model for other major cities in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

You can track progress for all Bay jurisdictions on EPA's Chesapeake Stat website. 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.

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 the District's Clean Water Blueprint

May 2014
D.C. submitted its second set of two-year milestones for 2014-2015 to EPA.

March 2012
D.C. submitted its Final Phase II WIP on March 30, 2012. EPA commented (PDF) (6 pgs, 291KB) on the blueprint May 31, 2012.

February 2012
EPA evaluated the Bay jurisdictions' Draft Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and 2012-2013 two-year milestones and provided feedback on Feb. 15, 2012.
The Phase II WIPs and the two-year milestones are important elements in helping to meet the Chesapeake Bay Program Executive Council's goal of having all practices in place by 2025 to meet water quality standards in the Chesapeake Bay. View the evaluation for District of Columbia (PDF) (4pg, 30K).

For their Phase II WIPs, EPA asked jurisdictions to make key stakeholders—local governments, conservations districts, farmers, builders and others—aware of their roles in cleaning up the region's waterways, and to strengthen pollution-reduction strategies for any sectors subject to federal enhanced oversight or backstop actions based on the Phase I WIPs and the Bay TMDL issued in 2010. Visit the District of Columbia's website to learn more about the status of their efforts.

November 2011
Final Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans were submitted to EPA by the six watershed states and the District of Columbia beginning November 29, 2010. The WIPs were designed to provide a roadmap for how and when a jurisdiction intends to meet its pollutant allocations under the Bay TMDL. View the Final Phase I WIP for the District of Columbia.

December 2010
The Phase I WIPs were reviewed by a team of EPA sector specialists based on detailed expectations provided by EPA in November 2009 (PDF) and supplemented in April 2010 (PDF) and extensive interaction with the jurisdictions since the submittal of draft WIPs in early September 2010. The WIPs needed to meet the lower pollution limits for that jurisdiction and provide reasonable assurance that the actions identified would achieve the reductions, particularly for non-permitted sources like runoff from agricultural lands and stormwater from urban and suburban lands. The final WIPs represented significant improvements over the draft WIPs, enabling EPA to reduce and remove most federal "backstops" that had been included in the draft TMDL. View the Phase I evaluation for the District of Columbia (PDF).

In 2017, the District 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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