Today, the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science released its 2021 Chesapeake Bay Report Card, which showed modest overall improvement in Bay health while highlighting ongoing struggles to improve water quality in portions of the upper Bay.
The report largely aligns with CBF’s 2020 State of the Bay Report, which found Bay health stagnating as jurisdictions work to reduce nonpoint sources of pollution—mostly from agricultural activities. Reducing these sources of pollution typically requires more support and buy-in from private landowners compared to limiting pollution from point sources such as industrial facilities or wastewater treatment plants.
In response to the report, Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Director of Science and Agricultural Policy Beth McGee issued the following statement:
“The Bay is trending in the right overall direction, but it still has a long way to go, a hill made steeper due to climate change. In this new report, portions of the lower Bay are faring well. However, areas in the upper Bay continue to struggle. Near Baltimore, wastewater plant failures are likely contributing to low health scores for the Patapsco and Back rivers and must be quickly fixed. We’re also concerned about the declining health of waterways in the Upper Eastern Shore and we’ll be looking into potential reasons for the drop in water quality.
“To accelerate the Bay cleanup, we’re encouraging jurisdictions to invest in regenerative agriculture, plant more trees and forest buffers, and expand green infrastructure such as rain gardens and bioswales in urban areas. As most of the pollution reduction necessary must come from agriculture, it is essential that the U.S. Department of Agriculture increase conservation funding across the region. The largest need is in Pennsylvania, which is significantly behind in meeting its commitments.
“We appreciate the inclusion of economic and societal indicators in the latest UMCES report. In the past, sources of pollution have often been concentrated near low-income and minority communities, so we hope this information can be used in the future to better understand and prevent this type of environmental injustice.”