A new report predicts that this summer the Chesapeake Bay's dead zone will be 33 percent smaller than average. Researchers from the Chesapeake Bay Program, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the University of Michigan, and the U.S. Geological Survey attribute the forecasted decline to the below average amount of water entering the Bay from the watershed's tributaries this past spring, as well as decreased nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from jurisdictions within the watershed.
As a result of the Bay's dead zone, areas of the Bay and its rivers do not have enough oxygen to support healthy aquatic life, including fish, blue crabs, and oysters. The algae blooms that cause the dead zone also cloud the water, damaging underwater grasses. In recent years, only a third or less of the Bay and its rivers have met water quality standards for dissolved oxygen, water clarity/SAV, and chlorophyll a.
Following the release of the prediction, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia Senior Scientist Joseph Wood issued this statement.
"A smaller dead zone is good news for the Bay's living resources, but a large portion of the Bay will still lack enough oxygen to support healthy aquatic life. While the dead zone has been trending down over time, the primary driver behind the prediction of a smaller dead zone this summer is the amount of rainfall from January through May.
"Pollution from sewage treatment plants has been significantly reduced but reducing pollution from agriculture and urban/suburban runoff has been woefully inadequate. A recent report from leading Bay scientists identifies several reasons our efforts to reduce pollution from agriculture and urban/suburban stormwater have not met expectations, and strategies that can accelerate improving water quality and the health of the living resources in our rivers, streams, and the Bay. Bay leaders, Congressmen, Governors, legislators, and those working to restore the Bay must take this opportunity to heed the science and chart a new course for Bay restoration. The health of our rivers and the Bay should not depend on the amount of rain we are getting, which will only increase as a result of climate change."