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.

Total Pollution Loads to the Bay

How much money is being spent
on water quality?


Pollution loads to the Bay are simulated using the CBP Watershed Model Phase 5.3.2 and wastewater discharge data reported by the Bay jurisdictions.  Loads include atmospheric deposition of nitrogen to tidal waters.  Planning targets established in August 2011 (2017 Interim Target and 2025 Planning Target) represent the level of effort necessary to meet the TMDL.  

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$761.9 million

was reported in the Chesapeake Registry for 2010 by the Bay Program partners.

Reported funding information is available for activities that protect and restore water quality in the following areas: wastewater, agriculture, developed lands, onsites and septic systems, riparian areas, air emissions, acid mine drainage, chemical contaminants, and other work to protect and restore water quality.

View more detailed funding information for water quality.

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Progress toward restoration is an assessment of whether Bay Program partners are making progress on their goals and planned actions. Achieving our health goals is influenced by many factors, such as weather, resulting in health goal changes that do not always directly correspond to changes in restoration progress. The Funding information is presented as reported to the Bay Program and does not currently capture all Bay Program partner work.

What is the current health of Bay water quality?

Standards attainment: data represent three year period (data year and preceding two years)


Data gathered from 2010 to 2012 indicate that 29 percent* of the Chesapeake Bay was attaining water quality standards for dissolved oxygen, water clarity/underwater bay grasses, and chlorophyll a.

*Based on the best available data, not including water clarity results. The percentage may change after water clarity data for the 2010-2012 assessment period become available and are incorporated into the calculations. At the same time the 2010-2012 status will be revised if necessary.

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What is the current health of streams and rivers in the Bay watershed?



Currently 43 percent of sampled streams are rated fair, good or excellent over the 2000-2010 time frame. More than 14,005 sites were sampled and rated for biological integrity. The average stream health scores in a subset (10,492) of these sampling locations indicated that: 1,388 (13 percent) were in excellent condition, 1,305 (12 percent) were in good condition, 1,844 (18 percent) were in fair condition, 1,578 (15 percent) were in poor condition, and 4,377 (42 percent) were in very poor condition. The Chesapeake Bay Executive Order Strategy states a goal to improve the health of streams where 70% of sampled stream sites throughout the Chesapeake watershed rate fair, good, or excellent by 2025.

Healthy freshwater streams are intrinsically linked a healthier Bay. The health of the streams and rivers in the Bay watershed is measured by sampling the abundance and diversity of snails, mussels, insects and other bottom-dwelling organisms – collectively known as benthic macroinvertebrates.  

Learn more about water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

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Why is water quality important?

An important goal for the Chesapeake Bay Program is clean water in the Bay and in the rivers and streams in the Bay watershed. For the Bay to be healthy and productive, the water must be fairly clear, have enough oxygen, contain the proper amount of algae and be free from chemical contamination. These components of good water quality make the Bay safe for humans and support healthy populations of fish, crabs and oysters.

Healthy water quality is important for many other Bay restoration goals such as restoring  bay grasses and providing oxygen rich water for abundant crabs and fish.  Water quality is, therefore, an area of focus that receives significant investment of resources by Chesapeake Bay Program partners.

The Bay Program partners focus on practices, policies, and programs that will restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries to conditions that support living resources and protect human health.  The Bay Program partners strive to continually improve the use of information related to pollutant sources and the effectiveness of management practices to target and adapt strategies and actions in cost-effective and efficient ways.

Water quality restoration strategies focus largely on reducing the amount of pollution entering the Bay. Pollutants such as nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous), sediment, and other chemicals are the primary targets for reduction. To reduce these pollutants, specific regulatory and voluntary initiatives are planned and carried out by state, federal, and local governments and non-government organizations.

Learn more about efforts to reduce pollution and restore water quality.


Detailed Water Quality Funding Information

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