Water Quality

In addition to the Overview information provided for Water Quality, the Agriculture and Wastewater Workgroups have described their priorities and progress in the tabs below. Other important work is being conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership to restore water quality by implementing pollution reduction practices on urban and suburban lands and reducing pollution deposited in the watershed from the air. Additional information on these efforts will be included over time. Progress in implementing the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and in achieving milestones set at the 2009 Executive Council Meeting is also described below.

Why is Agriculture Important to Clean Streams and a Healthy Bay?

Agriculture covers 23% of the land area in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, making it one of the primary land uses in the region. By toggling between the radio buttons and mousing over the pie chart below, one can view respective contributions by source of total nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads delivered to the Bay in 2009. While agriculture is the largest single source of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution to the Bay, agricultural lands also hold the greatest potential to play a significant part in cleaning up local waterways. By applying pollution-reducing management practices and state-of-the-art technologies to agricultural lands and livestock operations, healthy waters and a thriving farming industry can coexist.



Agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)

In December 2010, the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was signed. This ‘pollution diet’ called for reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from all sectors, including agriculture. The interactive map below presents the allocations set for regulated and unregulated agriculture within each state basin. Regulated agricultural contributors are those operations that are required to maintain water quality standards outlined in a permit, including Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). All other agriculture is unregulated. Each of the seven jurisdictions has developed a Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), laying out what practices they will have on the ground by 2025 to achieve these allocations.


Chesapeake Bay Executive Order 

The Chesapeake Bay Executive Order, signed in May 2009, calls for the targeting of "resources to better protect the Bay and its rivers, particularly in agricultural conservation practices." As part of the Executive Order Strategy, USDA committed to the following agricultural conservation outcome in support of the overall goal of restoring clean water: 

Work with producers to apply new conservation practices on 4 million acres of agricultural working lands in high-priority watersheds by 2025 to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.