Chesapeake Bay Dead Zone Predicted to Be Slightly Larger Than Average

The dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay responsible for choking underwater life is forecast to be slightly larger than average and began earlier than normal this year, according to a forecast released today by the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program

Dead zone fluctuations from year to year are connected to weather, as well as efforts to keep nitrogen and phosphorus pollution out of waterways. 

Runoff remains a major source of pollutants washing into the Bay, which in turn fuel algal blooms. When these algal blooms die and decompose, they take up oxygen in the water, creating dead zones, which are areas in the Bay and its rivers that don’t contain enough oxygen to support underwater life such as fish, crabs, and oysters. 

The annual dead zone forecast is linked to weather patterns so far in 2024, as well as monitoring of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution entering the Bay. The Bay Program noted that the dead zone is only expected to be 4 percent larger than average, despite stream and river flows 23 percent higher than average due to precipitation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed so far this year. Heavy rainfall is increasing in the region due to climate change, making reducing runoff more challenging. 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration Alison Prost issued the following statement.

“The continued existence of the Chesapeake Bay dead zone is cause for alarm. During the hottest months, far too many areas of the Bay lack enough oxygen to support healthy ecosystems. 

“The latest dead zone forecast reflects that the longstanding partnership between the federal government and the Chesapeake Bay watershed states has made some strides, particularly from wastewater treatment plant upgrades. In the face of a warmer and wetter climate, there is an urgent need for strong leadership to develop new solutions for pollution from agriculture and developed areas. 

“This comes as we approach a 2025 deadline for states to meet commitments to reduce pollution under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Now it’s imperative that elected leaders in the Bay watershed states as well as the federal level step up and publicly recommit to the Bay restoration partnership.”


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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