Virginia's Watershed Implementation Plan

The Commonwealth's Clean Water Blueprint charts the course to clean water

To clean up the Bay, we must improve the health of the local streams and rivers that feed into it.

Virginia's Clean Water Blueprint is the single most important roadmap for restoring the Commonwealth's waters. Also known as the Watershed Implementation Plan (or WIP), it offers a strong, detailed, and practical plan for meeting Virginia's goals for reducing pollution by 2025. If fully implemented, it will vastly improve the health of rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia filed the final version of its Phase III WIP with EPA on August 23, 2019.

History of Virginia's Clean Water Blueprint

This stage marks the culmination of decades of effort. In December 2010—after years of missed deadlines for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay—the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released science-based pollution limits (technically known as the Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL) for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the Bay. Subsequently, the six Bay states and the District of Columbia released initial WIPS to meet those limits by 2025. This collaborative effort between federal and state governments is commonly referred to as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

The state Blueprint engages state officials, planning district commissions, and soil conservation districts to cooperatively define the strategies that will be most effective for cleaning up their local waterways. This strategy is crucial, as much of the implementation occurs at the local level. Right now, Virginia is completing its last update to the Blueprint.

The Blueprint is Working

These efforts are already beginning to pay off in the form of less pollution, clearer water, record breaking underwater grasses, more dissolved oxygen, and a burgeoning oyster aquaculture industry in Virginia. But the Bay is still at just a shadow of what it once was. Its recovery is fragile, as shown by the record rainfall and increased polluted runoff of 2018. Our current path isn't enough for Virginia to ensure a resilient Bay. Without accelerated efforts these promising gains could easily be reversed. The final update to Virginia's Clean Water Blueprint ensures the Commonwealth reaches its clean water goals by the 2025 deadline and puts us on a path to fully restoring the Bay. It calls on everyone to do their share, including farmers, cities and suburbs, and wastewater treatment systems. Years of work have created a recipe for success in Virginia, but we must make sure we get over the finish line.

Why the Blueprint is Important

The proposals included in this final update to Virginia's Blueprint have multiple added benefits, including beautifying communities, increasing tourism and recreation, benefits for the seafood industry, cleaner air, mitigating climate change, and flood protection.

  • Once fully implemented, the Blueprint will have $8.3 billion in economic benefits from nature annually for Virginia.
  • For the first time, this plan accounts for pollution increases due to climate change, which is already harming the Bay. We must plan for threats from climate change now before it's too late. 
  • This plan pulls together input from local communities, agriculture, conservation organizations, and many other stakeholders. 
  • Increased investments to Virginia’s clean water programs will be key to its success.

Virginia's Progress Toward Pollution Reductions

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. Virginia's pollution-reduction progress is summarized in the table below. While no state is completely on track, sewage treatment plant upgrades in Virginia have already met the 2025 goals and are the main reason the state is close to on track. But Virginia must accelerate efforts in pollution reduction from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff. As of press time, new sediment targets from the states had not yet been established.(Key)

Nitrogen Phosphorus
Polluted Runoff
& CSO† †


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

For our 2019 evaluation of Virginia's progress on its milestone commitments, see Virginia's Blueprint for Clean Water.


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