2019 State of the Blueprint

A healthy Bay, clean streams, and resilient rivers are in sight but at risk

2019 State of the Blueprint

We're entering the final and most important phase of the Chesapeake clean-up effort. With a healthy Bay in sight, the stakes have never been higher for our environment, economy, and way of life.

But are the Bay states on track to reduce pollution by the 2025 deadline and restore the Bay for generations to come? Our following State of the Blueprint report looks at the progress made, and the progress still critically needed, in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, which together account for roughly 90 percent of the Bay's pollution. Overall, we found that no state is completely on track. But Pennsylvania is far off track. Moving forward, EPA must hold the states accountable and impose consequences for failure—starting with Pennsylvania. Take action now to ensure we have strong, comprehensive clean water plans to finish the job in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Read the State of the Blueprint press release.

About the Blueprint

Established in 2010 after years of failed efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is our best, perhaps last, chance for real success. It includes pollution limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); plans to meet those limits for each of the six Bay states and the District of Columbia; and two-year, incremental goals—known as milestones—to keep progress on track.

Rebounding underwater grasses and blue crab populations show it's working. But the recovery is fragile. Climate change is an imminent threat. Regulatory rollbacks threaten progress toward clean water and air. And funding is at risk for programs key to the Bay's health. Now, in the final and most important phase of the clean-up effort, the Bay partnership must finish the job. The health of our region’s environment, our way of life, and nearly $130 billion in natural benefits annually, are at stake.

What We Found

The Blueprint calls for all Bay jurisdictions to have in place, by 2025, the practices and policies necessary to meet the Bay's pollution limits. We assessed progress in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—the three states that account for roughly 90 percent of Bay pollution.

First, we used EPA’s scientific model to estimate pollution reductions made between 2009 and 2018 and if those reductions are on a trajectory to meet the 2025 goals. Second, we looked at how well the states implemented the programmatic commitments they made in their two-year milestone goals—in other words, the practices and programs they will use to get the job done.

No state is completely on track. But Pennsylvania is far off track.:

  • Maryland is on track to meet its overall nutrient reduction targets by 2025, due in large part to investments to upgrade sewage treatment plants, which have exceeded goals, and in farm management practices. But pollution from developed lands and septic systems continues to increase, challenging the long-term health of Maryland's waterways.
    See Maryland's Progress
     
  • Pennsylvania has repeatedly failed to meet goals to reduce pollution. Moreover, the Commonwealth's latest draft Blueprint comes up woefully short of what it will take to save the Bay and Pennsylvania's creeks and streams.
    See Pennsylvania's Progress
     
  • Virginia is on track to achieve its 2025 goals, provided it accelerates efforts to reduce pollution from agricultural sources and growing urban and suburban areas, while continuing progress in the wastewater sector. Virginia has a strong roadmap for success; the key is implementation.
    See Virginia's Progress
     

Progress Toward Pollution-Reduction Goals

We used EPA's scientific model to estimate pollution reductions made between 2009 and 2018 and if those reductions are on a trajectory to meet the 2025 goals. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia's pollution-reduction progress is summarized in the table below. Together the three states account for roughly 90 percent of the Bay's pollution. While no state is completely on track, sewage treatment plant upgrades in Maryland and Virginia have already met the 2025 goals and are the main reason the two states are close to on track. Efforts in both states need to accelerate pollution reduction from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff. See how well other watershed states were doing in our midpoint assessments. As of press time, new sediment targets from the states had not yet been established. (Key)

Nitrogen Phosphorus
 
MDMaryland
Agriculture
 
   
U&S
Polluted Runoff
   
Septic
 
  N/A*
Wastewater
& CSO† †
   
TOTAL
 
   
 
PAPennsylvania
Agriculture
 
   
U&S
Polluted Runoff
   
Septic
 
  N/A*
Wastewater
& CSO††
   
TOTAL
 
   
 
VAVirginia
Agriculture
 
   
U&S
Polluted Runoff
   
Septic
 
  N/A*
Wastewater
& CSO† †
   
TOTAL
 
   

Key

red projected loads more than 20% off target or pollution is increasing
yellow projected loads within 10-20% of target
green projected loads within 10% of target

 

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

Pollution-reduction progress is assessed with modeled estimates of the pollution-reduction benefits from implemented practices such as upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, best management practices like cover crops and streamside forested buffers on agricultural lands, and stormwater practices in urban areas like rain gardens.

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