Recent Progress: Increase
As of 2021, the best management practices (BMPs) in place to reduce pollution are estimated to achieve 49% of the nitrogen reductions, 64% of the phosphorus reductions and 100% of the sediment reductions needed to attain applicable water quality standards when compared to the 2009 loads. According to the Chesapeake Assessment Scenario Tool (CAST), BMPs (pollution controls) put in place in the Chesapeake Bay watershed between 2009 and 2021 are estimated to lower nitrogen loads 14%, phosphorus loads 14% and sediment loads 4% since 2009.
Between 2020 and 2021, nitrogen loads were estimated to decrease 1.4 million pounds, phosphorus loads were estimated to decrease 0.004 million pounds, and sediment loads were estimated to decrease 74.2 million pounds. While the sediment load reduction from 2020 to 2021 is above the average annual reduction for 2009 through 2020, the nitrogen and phosphorus load reductions for 2020 to 2021 are below average.
77% of the nitrogen load reductions between 2020 and 2021 came from the agriculture sector aided in part by the following programmatic initiatives:
- In Delaware, there was an increased investment of funds into Delaware’s cover crop program, in addition to Delaware restoring its database with its BMP history, which has been a multi-year effort.
- In New York, there was an increased investment of funds into New York’s verification program, which increased the conservation district staff’s ability to visit operations and locate practices.
- In Pennsylvania, there was a large effort geared at educating county partners on reporting practices through the database and locating previously unreported practices on the ground.
- In Virginia, there was a focus on database improvements to report previously unreported agricultural practices and conduct a producer’s survey of operations in partnership with agricultural organizations in the state.
- In Maryland, nutrient management plan compliance increased from 68% to 77% due to the addition of more field staff and increased focus on bringing plans back into compliance by resolving previously unidentified issues.
Modeled reductions in phosphorus and sediment pollution loads between 2020 and 2021 were primarily from the natural sector and agricultural sector. In previous years, 73% of phosphorus load reductions came from improvements to treatment technologies in the wastewater sector. However, due to permit violation issues like those in Maryland, 0% of phosphorus reductions for the 2021 progress year came from the wastewater sector watershed wide.
Outlook: Off Course
The 2025 Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) Outcome is off course since BMPs are not in place to achieve the 2021 target for nitrogen and phosphorus. The 2021 target is essentially 80% of the needed nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution load reductions to attain water quality standards (the difference between the 2009 pollution load and the 2025 pollution load). While BMPs are in place to achieve 80% of the needed sediment load reductions, marking the sediment goal complete; because the pollution control measures are not in place to achieve the 2021 target for nitrogen and phosphorus loads, the 2025 WIP Outcome’s outlook is off course.
The Chesapeake Bay Program’s nutrient pollution load estimates were generated using the CAST-2019 version of the Phase 6 model (which includes baseline data up through the 2019 progress year) and wastewater discharge data reported by jurisdictions and calibrated using monitoring data. The next version of the model, “CAST-2021”, will be used for the 2022 progress year. For detailed descriptions of CAST, please visit the CAST Model Documentation website.
Jurisdictions have described the steps they are taking to reduce pollution and achieve the Bay TMDL allocations in their respective Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs). Jurisdictions developed and submitted Phase I WIPs in 2010, Phase II WIPs in 2012 and Phase III WIPs in 2019. Final planning targets for sediment and source sectors were established for the 2018 reporting period. All other planning target loads were adjusted after the jurisdictions’ Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) were finalized in 2019 using the same process that established the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) in 2010.
Resource availability, location and other factors can influence a jurisdiction’s decision and ability to implement certain practices in certain sectors. More information about nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads and practices can be found in downloadable reports on the CAST website. Programmatic milestones are maintained and updated every two years on the websites of each jurisdiction: Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The current milestone period is 2020-2021. The next milestone period is 2022-2023.
The Chesapeake Bay Program also uses water quality monitoring data to track the partnership’s progress towards attaining water quality standards and to examine trends in reducing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the watershed. However, the recent progress and outlook of the 2025 WIP Outcome is currently measured using CAST.
Participating partners have described the steps they will take to achieve the 2025 Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) outcome in their individual WIPs. To track the achievement of these outcomes, partners have committed to:
- Collecting, verifying and reporting BMP data;
- Evaluating the effectiveness of pollution controls;
- Enhancing water quality monitoring efforts; and
- Adhering to the TMDL Accountability Framework.
Monitoring and assessing progress toward the 2017 WIP outcome occurred through the 2017 Midpoint Assessment. This review of our progress led to enhanced modeling tools that addressed emerging issues like climate change and the TMDL Accountability Framework helps provide confidence that the necessary pollution reductions will occur to achieve the 2025 WIP outcome.
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 September of 2022. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in August 2024.
Logic & Action Plan
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.
The Water Quality Goal Implementation Team (WQGIT) leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Vital Habitats Goal Implementation Team and the Scientific, Technical Assessment and Reporting Team (STAR).
Participating partners include:
- State of Delaware
- State of Maryland
- State of New York
- Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Commonwealth of Virginia
- State of West Virginia
- District of Columbia
- Chesapeake Bay Commission
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Department of Defense
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- U.S. Geological Survey