Recent Progress: Decrease
As of 2022, the best management practices (BMPs) in place to reduce pollution are estimated to achieve 51% of the nitrogen reductions, 60% 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 2022 are estimated to lower nitrogen loads 14%, phosphorus loads 13% and sediment loads 5%, compared to 2009. As modeled based on the implementation of BMPs, the sediment load reductions have met the established target, nitrogen loads have decreased, and phosphorus loads have increased from 2021 to 2022.
Outlook: Off Course
At the Fall 2022 Executive Council meeting, it was acknowledged that the 2025 Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) outcome will not be met on time and the indicators for this outcome support the determination that it is off course. The outlook for pollution loads is forecasted by comparing recent modeled progress for the 2022 progress year to the expected goal for the 2022 progress year, which is an 85% achievement of the 2025 planning target as compared to 2009. BMPs are in place to achieve 100% of the needed sediment load reductions for the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a whole. Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York have not met their statewide planning targets for sediment. Nitrogen and phosphorus modeled load reductions are well below 85% and thus off course for the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a whole.
Three Modeled Load Reduction indicators (nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment) are currently used to estimate progress toward this outcome. Two new indicators, the Integrated Chesapeake Bay Watershed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) nitrogen and phosphorus indicators, have been developed to estimate progress toward load reductions using a combination of observed data and modeling analysis, to improve our understanding of the Bay watershed response to our implemented management actions. This important enhancement supplements the modeled nitrogen and phosphorus load reductions expected to result from implemented actions. Analysis of monitoring data is used to estimate load reductions and compare them to the expected reductions estimated by the model.
Key new information provided by the Integrated Bay TMDL indicators are nitrogen and phosphorus load reductions predicted by the model and corroborated by observed data, the nutrient reductions we expect from implemented actions but haven’t seen in the monitoring data, and the reductions still needed but not yet implemented. The indicators also consider additional reductions needed because of the filling of the Conowingo reservoir and the impacts of climate change. The monitoring data included in these indicators are river discharge and nutrient concentrations, nitrogen and phosphorus load and trend estimates, wastewater loads and atmospheric deposition to tidal waters. Modeling data are from CAST.
The two new indicators will be reported alongside the Modeled Load Reduction indicators starting in 2024.
Modeled Loads Reduction Indicators: Mixed
The Modeled Load Reduction indicators reflect nutrient and sediment pollution load estimates generated using the CAST-2019 version of the Phase 6 model (which includes baseline data up through the 2022 progress year) and wastewater discharge data reported by jurisdictions and calibrated using monitoring data. For detailed descriptions of CAST, please visit the CAST Model Documentation website.
Modeled Nitrogen Loads: Improvement
Nitrogen loads to the Bay decreased by an estimated 1.63 million pounds/year from 2021 to 2022 compared to the average load change of 3.36 million pounds/year over the 12 years from 2009 to 2021, indicating an increase in progress. Pollution controls implemented between 2009 and 2022 have reduced nitrogen loads to the Bay by an estimated 41.9 million pounds, a 14.1% reduction since 2009. By 2022, the BMPs in place are estimated to have achieved 51% of the nitrogen load reductions necessary to meet the 2025 target as compared to 2009 (the last modeled progress assessment prior to establishing the Bay TMDL).
Modeled Phosphorus Loads: Decline
Phosphorus loads to the Bay increased by an estimated 0.16 million pounds/year from 2021 to 2022, compared to the average load reduction of 0.20 million pounds/year between 2009 to 2021. This increase in modeled phosphorus loads reflects a decrease in recent progress. Pollution controls implemented between 2009 and 2022 have reduced phosphorus loads to the Bay by about 2.3 million pounds, a 13.4% reduction. The BMPs in place as of 2022 are estimated to have achieved 60% of the phosphorus load reductions necessary to meet the 2025 target, as compared to 2009.
Modeled Sediment Loads: Achieved Baywide
Sediment load reduction goals have been met, with 100% of the reduction goal for sediment achieved Bay-wide. Sediment loads decreased by about 74.3 million pounds/year from 2021 to 2022, above the average reduction of 70.2 million pounds/year between 2009 and 2021. Pollution controls implemented between 2009 and 2022 have achieved a reduction of an estimated 917.1 million pounds, a 4.9% reduction since 2009.
Jurisdictions have described the steps they are taking to reduce pollution and achieve the necessary nutrient and sediment load reductions in their respective 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.
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 2022-2023.
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.
- Adhering to the TMDL Accountability Framework.
Monitoring and assessing progress toward the 2017 WIPs outcome occurred through the 2017 Midpoint Assessment. This review of our progress led to enhanced modeling tools that addressed emerging issues like climate change. The Accountability Framework aims to provide confidence that the necessary practices and controls will be in place and, therefore, applicable water quality standards will be attained.
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 2022. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in August of 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.
- Leading BMP Verification.
- Supporting continued BMP implementation, tracking and reporting across all source sectors.
- Upgrading and enhancing wastewater treatment plants and septic systems.
- Guiding the development of jurisdictions’ trading and offset programs.
- Providing permit and enforcement oversight across all sectors.
- Improving temporal and regional patterns in water quality criteria attainment in tidal and nontidal waters.
- Coordinating the Chesapeake Bay Program Nontidal Water Quality Monitoring Network.
- Addressing gaps in monitoring programs.
- Developing and applying new approaches for quantifying and explaining water quality trends in tidal waters.
- Explaining the drivers of water quality trends in the watershed.
- Continuing to enhance the Bay Program’s decision support tools (CAST, Chesapeake Progress, the Chesapeake Bay Program watershed and estuary models).
- Completed all analyses for the 2021 and 2022 Progress model assessment including supporting jurisdictions’ National Environmental Information Exchange Network (NEIEN) submissions, reviewing Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs) for accuracy and completeness related to verification and meeting with each jurisdiction about the quality of their data and modeling results.
- Created a Phase 7 Model Development page to document and track seven interrelated projects contributing to a full suite of modeling tools to be ready in 2027: High Resolution Land Use, Chesapeake Assessment Scenario Tool (CAST), Optimization, Agricultural Inputs, Watershed Modeling, Estuarine Modeling and Criteria Assessment.
- Produced an array of information on trends of BMP implementation and loads that help signatory jurisdictions understand their progress and assist EPA with any continued oversight evaluations of progress and WIPs.
- Updated each jurisdiction’s progress toward meeting priority BMP implementation commitments for the 2022-2023 Milestones for those practices identified in Phase III WIPs that account for the majority of the nitrogen reductions.
- Finalized the numeric assessment and documentation of EPA’s evaluation of PA’s final amended Phase III WIP, leading to the publication of findings in November 2022.
- Worked extensively with team members, jurisdictions, academics and outside fertilizer organizations to update agricultural and urban fertilizer application rates for CAST.
- Updated the BMP Expert Panel Protocol.
- Recommended a list of tributaries for the development of Multiple Tributary Models.
- Supported the Chesapeake Bay Commission in their assessment of NRCS Climate Change Mitigation BMPs.
The Water Quality Goal Implementation Team (WQGIT) leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Habitat GIT, Sustainable Fisheries GIT, Maintain Healthy Watersheds GIT, Enhance Partnering, Leadership and Management GIT 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