2020 State of the Blueprint

20 Milestones Hero Home

Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

A healthy Bay, clean streams, and resilient rivers are in reach, but the road to finishing the job is steep

The historic Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is our last, best chance to save the Bay and achieve the fishable, swimmable waters guaranteed by the Clean Water Act. Its success is critical to our region’s health, economy, outdoor heritage, and quality of life.

But are the Bay states on track to reduce pollution by the Blueprint’s 2025 deadline? Our 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, Maryland and Virginia are currently on track to meet their pollution reduction commitments. However, their progress to date has relied heavily on improvements at wastewater treatment plants, and they must accelerate efforts to reduce pollution from agriculture and urban and suburban areas to finish the job and maintain long-term water quality. Pennsylvania remains far off track largely because state lawmakers have not provided the resources necessary to help farmers implement conservation practices that reduce pollution, threatening the Blueprint’s success. The Bay jurisdictions and EPA must take action now if we are going to leave a legacy of clean water to future generations.

Read CBF's State of the Blueprint press release
Watch the press conference video

About the Blueprint

The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is the historic federal/state plan established in 2010 to restore the Bay’s water quality. Among other things, it outlines three very important requirements.

  1. Pollution limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
  2. Plans to meet those limits developed by each of the six Bay states and the District of Columbia, known as Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) (referred to here as state Clean Water Blueprints).
  3. Milestones—two-year, incremental goals to keep progress on track.

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. The jurisdictions are currently implementing their final, state Clean Water Blueprints (Phase III WIPs) to achieve the remaining pollution reductions.

The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is working, and over the long term, polluted runoff in many areas is decreasing along with summer dead zones. But the road to finishing the job is steep.

What We Found

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 2019. For each state, we assessed both the total pollution reductions made statewide, as well as the reductions made by each sector (i.e., agriculture, wastewater, etc.) to determine if current trends put them on track to meet the 2025 Blueprint goals. This is an important distinction. While significant progress in one sector may put a state on track to meet its total 2025 goals today, without progress in all sectors, states risk becoming off track in the future.

Second, we looked at how well the states implemented the practices and programs outlined in their two-year milestone goals for the 2018-2019 period—in other words, the specific actions they committed to take to get the job done.

While Maryland and Virginia are on track today, achieving the 2025 goals will require the states to accelerate pollution reductions from agriculture and urban and suburban runoff. Pennsylvania is far off track.

  • Maryland is currently on track to meet its overall pollution-reduction targets by 2025, due mostly to investments in better farm management practices and wastewater treatment technology. However, pollution from urban and suburban development and the impacts of climate change challenge the long-term health of Maryland’s waterways. To stay on track, the state must prioritize restoration efforts that are long-lasting, cost-effective, and geographically targeted where the investments will have the best water quality results.
    SEE MARYLAND'S PROGRESS
  • Pennsylvania is not on track to achieve its 2025 goals. Despite success in reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plants, it is not enough to make up for the massive need to reduce pollution from agriculture, which accounts for roughly 93 percent of the total remaining nitrogen reductions necessary to meet the Commonwealth’s committments. The Commonwealth is significantly behind in helping farmers implement the practices necessary to reduce pollution. If there is any chance of success, this must change.
    SEE PENNSYLVANIA'S PROGRESS
  • Overall, Virginia is currently on track to achieve its 2025 goals to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution due largely to reductions from wastewater treatment plants. However, it risks getting off track unless it accelerates efforts to reduce pollution from agricultural sources and urban and suburban development and continues to make additional pollution reductions from wastewater treatment plants. The Commonwealth has a strong plan to make these reductions, but the plan must be implemented.
    SEE VIRGINIA'S PROGRESS

Progress Toward Pollution-Reduction Goals

We used EPA's scientific model to estimate pollution reductions made between 2009 and 2019and if those reductions are on a trajectory to meet the 2025 goals, both statewide and for each sector. 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.

Individual sectors compared to 2025 Phase III WIP.
Total compared to EPA Planning Target.

Nitrogen Phosphorus
 
MDMaryland
Agriculture
 
   
Urban & Suburban
Polluted Runoff
   
Septic
 
  N/A*
Wastewater
& Combined Sewer Outfall
   
TOTAL
 
   
 
PAPennsylvania
Agriculture
 
   
Urban & Suburban
Polluted Runoff
   
Septic
 
  N/A*
Wastewater
& Combined Sewer Outfall
   
TOTAL
 
   
 
VAVirginia
Agriculture
 
   
Urban & Suburban
Polluted Runoff
   
Septic
 
  N/A*
Wastewater
& Combined Sewer Outfall
   
TOTAL
 
   

Key

red projected loads more than 25% off target or pollution is increasing
yellow projected loads within 10-25% of target
green projected loads less than 10% off target
* No contribution from this source sector
Any increasing trendline is red, regardless of percentage

Pollution-reduction progress is assessed with modeled estimates of the 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, like rain gardens, in urban areas. The “Total” progress for each state is assessed against the overall pollution-reduction target EPA assigned each state in order to meet the Blueprint goals by 2025. Each state is responsible for dividing EPA’s total allotment among the various pollution sources (sectors) in their state Clean Water Blueprints (Watershed Implementation Plans or WIPs). The progress for each sector (i.e. agriculture) is therefore assessed against the pollution-reduction target assigned to it in the states’ most recent Phase III WIPs.

 

You Can Help Keep the Blueprint on Track EPA's failure to require Pennsylvania and New York to develop implementation plans that will achieve the 2025 Bay restoration goals puts the success of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint at risk. EPA must use its authority under the Clean Water Act to hold New York and Pennsylvania accountable for taking the steps needed to meet their Clean Water Blueprint commitments. Send a message right now to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging that EPA assert its leadership in the Bay clean-up effort. These state governments must be held accountable to the clean water goals they committed to. The health of our region's environment, our public health, and our way of life are at stake.
Take action now

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