Recent Progress: No Change

Each jurisdiction in the Chesapeake Bay region has its own definition of healthy waters and watersheds, and its own programs to support watershed protection. Honoring state preference, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Maintain Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team will not seek a single definition for healthy waters and watersheds but will strategically track and support the preservation of state-identified healthy waters and watersheds. These waters and watersheds as identified in 2017 will serve as the baseline from which we assess watershed health and measure progress toward this outcome. Currently, the necessary data is not available to evaluate progress toward the outcome.

Outlook: Off Course

The Healthy Watersheds outcome is off-course because streams within State-Identified Healthy Watersheds (SIHWs) are not routinely monitored and because the dates of land protection efforts are not consistently
recorded. This makes it impossible to know whether protected lands in healthy watersheds have recently increased or not. The Maintain Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team developed Chesapeake Healthy Watersheds Assessment 2.0 to infer the condition of watersheds based on monitored landscape conditions. For example, increases in impervious surfaces are indicative of potential declines in watershed and stream health and have been incorporated into the draft of an indicator. The proposed indicator represents changes in the percent and acres of impervious surfaces and protected natural lands from 2013/14 to 2017/18.

State-identified healthy waters and watersheds are defined below.

  • In Delaware, there are currently no healthy watersheds. All of the state's tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay are impaired by nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and/or bacteria, and will only be considered healthy when their Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) are achieved and their surface water quality standards are met.
  • Because the District of Columbia is a primarily urbanized area, it has not identified currently healthy watersheds.
  • In Maryland, streams and their catchments are designated Tier II when their biological characteristics are significantly better than minimum water quality standards.
  • In New York, those waterbodies that have been categorized as "No Known Impact" because monitoring data and information indicate an absence of use restrictions are considered healthy.
  • In Pennsylvania, those waters and watersheds that have been classified as High Quality or Exceptional Value are considered healthy.
  • In Virginia, those waters and watersheds that are identified as having high aquatic integrity according to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Natural Heritage Healthy Waters Program are defined as ecologically healthy waters.
  • In West Virginia, those waters that have been designated Tier 3 are known as outstanding national resource waters and are considered healthy.

Healthy watersheds begin with healthy streams, and bring resilience to the region in the form of clean water, critical habitat and social and economic benefits. Healthy watersheds are also a bargain: protecting them is much less expensive than restoring degraded waters.

Learn About Factors Influencing Progress

Management Strategy

To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:

  • Tracking the health, vulnerability and protection status of state-identified healthy waters and watersheds;
  • Strengthening local commitments and capacity to protect healthy watersheds;
  • Improving communication among federal agencies to encourage them to protect healthy watersheds; and
  • Supporting state-based efforts to improve the identification, assessment, monitoring and protection of healthy watersheds.

These partners will also collaborate with the work being done to achieve the Land Use Methods and Metrics, Land Use Options Evaluation and Protected Lands outcomes.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in August of 2021. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in August 2023.

Download Management Strategy (.pdf)

Logic & Action Plan

Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.


  • Compile an inventory of healthy waters and watersheds.
  • Compile information related to the vulnerability of healthy waters and watersheds.
  • Prioritize the protection of healthy waters and watersheds.
  • Maintain and expand watershed assessment activities.
  • Convey information on the status of healthy watersheds to local stakeholders.
  • Identify the various tools that may be used (primarily by local governments) to protect healthy watersheds.
  • Leverage funds to support healthy watersheds.
  • Implement new or improve existing policies, programs and research related to healthy watersheds.
  • Provide a valued forum for mutual learning and exploration related to healthy watersheds.
  • Develop informational resources and support state agency communications related to healthy watersheds.
  • Promote science related to healthy watersheds.

Learn About Logic & Action Plan

Participating Partners

The Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Sustainable Fisheries, Vital Habitats, Water Quality and Fostering Stewardship goal implementation teams.

Participating partners include:

  • Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (Contact: Stephen Williams) (State of Delaware)
  • District Department of Energy and Environment (Contact: Matt Robinson) (District of Columbia)
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources (Contact: Angel Valdez) (State of Maryland)
  • New York Department of Environmental Conservation (Contact: Lauren Townley) (State of New York)
  • Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (Contact: Todd Janeski) (Commonwealth of Virginia)
  • Virginia Commonwealth University (Contact: Greg Garman) (Commonwealth of Virginia)
  • West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (Contact: Tim Craddock) (State of West Virginia)
  • Chesapeake Bay Commission
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Park Service
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Nature Conservancy