Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

Maryland's Watershed Implementation Plan

in millions of pounds per year
1985 2009 2014 2015
2017 Interim Goal 2025 Goal
Nitrogen 76.56 51.95 49.81 48 45.48 41.17
Phosphorus 5.36 3.3 2.92 2.88 3.01 2.81
Sediment 1871.29 1395.12 1298.75 1333.54 1367.84 1349.65
Go to Maryland's WIP website >>

Collectively, the EPA's TMDL and the state Watershed Implementation Plans establish the Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake.  

Maryland and the other six Bay jurisdictions agreed to create state-specific plans to implement 60 percent of their Bay cleanup practices by 2017 and 100 percent by 2025. These plans are called Watershed Implementation Plans or WIPs and will not only help restore the Bay, but will also significantly improve the health of local waterways.


In June 2014, EPA evaluated Pennsylvania's progress to date. Their findings are summarized below.

Urban Runoff            
Wastewater & CSO            
All Sources            


    On track for 2017 target       Within 10% of being on track for 2017 target
    More than 10% off track for 2017 target       *No contribution from this source sector

Combined Sewer Outflow

Chart based on data from the Chesapeake Bay Program's 2014 Reducing Pollution Indicator:


2015 MIlestones MD
Download the Maryland Milestones 2014-15 Interim Report


To track progress toward achieving these goals, each jurisdiction established interim, two-year cleanup goals called Milestones, which would be publicly reported beginning January 2011. Two-year Milestones and progress reports are a critical tool to hold the states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly accountable.

In July 2015, CBF and the Choose Clean Water Coalition (CCWC) released an analysis of each state's progress toward achieving its 2014-2015 Milestones. The goal of this analysis—which focused on the highest priority pollution-reduction practices—was to determine whether the state's progress is sufficient to allow it to achieve 60 percent implementation by 2017.

Maryland generally is on track to clean up its portion of the Chesapeake Bay and the creeks and rivers that feed it, but much of that progress is due to upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, most of which are currently operating below their design capacity. That capacity will eventually be used up as more people move into the region, so beyond 2017, pollution from wastewater treatment plants will increase and pollution reductions will need to come from other sources and practices.

Much more work needs to be done to meet the 2017 goal for animal waste management systems. The state’s new Animal Feeding Operations permits keep track of where manure is land applied if at the farm of origin, but lacks mechanisms to track land application at receiving farms. We expect that implementing the Phosphorus Management Tool will require accelerating this practice in the coming years and more transparent accounting of where manure is used as fertilizer.

Maryland has a higher per acre payment to farmers for cover crops than any other state in the Chesapeake watershed, which has resulted in rapid and widespread adoption of the practice with associated water pollution reductions that may serve as a model to other states. However, any continued investment in the practice needs to be more targeted to farmers not currently using them and to encourage the inclusion of mixed species. Farmers that have already adopted the practice of single species or commercial cover crops should be expected to continue the practice without cost assistance from the state.

Assessment of Maryland's Progress on High Priority Pollution-Reduction Practices

x Off Track      check mark On Track 

icon - agricultureAGRICULTURE

Animal Waste Management Systems x

Manure management allows the farmer to move manure wastes from confined areas into appropriate waste storage structures. This allows farmers to spread manure or separated nutrients onto crops at appropriate agronomic rates.

Unfortunately, Maryland is currently not on track to achieve their 2015 or 2017 goals for this practice.

Action Needed: The state's new Animal Feeding Operations general permit and the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations provide the policy vehicles to drive better nutrient management and reduce runoff, particularly of phosphorus. However, success relies, in part, on the implementation of animal waste management systems or a switch from conventional livestock systems to pasture-based systems. More technical and financial resources are needed.

Poultry Phytase  x

Phytase is an enzyme added to poultry feed that improves the ability of birds to take up phosphorus from the feed, so that less needs to be added to meet their nutritional requirements. The end result: less phosphorus in the litter. Maryland has required the use of phytase since 2001 and average concentrations of phosphorus have decreased. However, greater reductions are needed and recent data suggests phosphorus concentrations are trending back up.

Action Needed: Maryland needs to work with the poultry industry to ensure that the benefits of the use of phytase and other feed adjustments are maximized.

Cover Crops  check mark

Cover crops such as legumes can provide a source of nitrogen for crops, reducing the need (and expense) of adding commercial fertilizer. This benefit may be particularly important for farmers that need to reduce manure application under the new Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations. Multi-species cover crops also can build soil health and provide protection from the effects of drought.

Maryland is on-track to achieve their 2015 and 2017 goals for this practice.

Action Needed: Funding needs to be targeted to farms that have not adopted the practice or where it would deliver the most water-quality and soil health benefits.

icon- wastewater/septicWASTEWATER/SEPTIC

Wastewater Treatment Plants check mark

Upgrades to wastewater treatment plants decrease the amount of microscopic algae, resulting in clearer water and submerged aquatic vegetation making a comeback. Thanks to the capital raised through Maryland's "Flush Fee," the Bay Restoration Fund has helped finance significant upgrades to wastewater treatment plants.

Maryland is on track overall to meet its phosphorus reduction targets for 2017. For nitrogen, progress is slightly off-track for 2017, but with upgrades that are in progress, nitrogen loads should also be reduced in the next few years.

Action Needed: Continue to upgrade wastewater treatment plants, but accelerate implementation of pollution reductions from other source sectors as pollution loads from wastewater are projected to increase in the future.

Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website

You can track progress for all Bay jurisdictions on EPA's Chesapeake Stat website. On EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL website you can read about progress already being realized.


CBF President Will Baker spoke to environmental advocates the Maryland Environmental Legislative Summit about why protecting EPA's Chesapeake Bay pollution limits during the current General Assembly session is critical. Watch the video above to hear what he had to say.

The decline of the Bay has cost our region billions of dollars in lost jobs, revenue, and resources and threatens to be a continuing drag on local and state economies for years to come. To find out more about the economic impact of the Bay to the region, see the following CBF reports:

Debunking the "Job Killer" Myth: How Pollution Limits Encourage Jobs in the Chesapeake Bay Region (pdf)

The Economic Argument for Cleaning Up the Bay and Its Rivers (pdf)

Oyster Report: On the Brink (pdf)

Bad Waters and the Decline of Blue Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay (pdf)

Bay pollution also threatens public health. To read more about health threats, see CBF's report Bad Water 2009: The Impact of Human Health in the Chesapeake Bay Region (pdf)

You can find the EPA pollution limit documents on the EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL website.

2012-13 Eastern Shore Assessment

June 2014 Eastern Shore Milestones AssessmentMaryland's Eastern Shore has a special connection to the Chesapeake Bay. CBF's Eastern Shore Office and the CCWC released a report that summarizes progress of counties on the Eastern Shore in cleaning the water in their local creeks and rivers over 2012 and 2013.

The findings were not encouraging.

Read the Report 

Read the Press Release


The work is far from done. Over 5,800 miles of Maryland rivers and streams remain impaired, meaning they don't meet standards set in the federal Clean Water Act. The state warns residents against swimming or coming in contact with water for 48 hours after a thunderstorm because of contamination running off the land. Fish kills, algae blooms and other phenomenon also remain common as the Bay struggles to right itself. 

In short, the Chesapeake remains an ecosystem dangerously out of balance. That becomes a problem for everyone, from watermen who no longer can make a living on the water, to homeowners whose basements flood with putrid water during storms.

Vexing problems remain to be ironed out. Reducing and treating polluted runoff is expensive, but also necessary. Dedicated funding is needed for the job, especially as several counties and cities are required by state-issued permits to reduce this pollution. Maryland is also relying on these reductions to help meet its overall pollution limits.

Feasible solutions also are needed to reduce pollution from septic systems. This is particularly a problem in rural areas where builders depend on septic systems to develop far from existing communities that have sewer systems. A home on a septic system discharges up to ten times the amount of nitrogen pollution than a home on a sewer line. So continuing to allow thousands of new septic systems only nullifies the progress we have made reducing pollution from farms, sewage plants and other sectors.

Apathy, finger-pointing, anti-Bay legislation and lawsuits, powerful interest groups, and a bad economy all threaten to derail the collaborative local/state/federal Bay cleanup. Yet most experts consider this the Chesapeake Bay's best, and perhaps last, chance for real restoration. The problems have been identified; we have the know-how and tools to fix them; and the benefits—such as job creation—of a restored Chesapeake Bay manifestly outweigh cleanup costs. If we work together to make the pollution limits work, many scientists believe the Chesapeake Bay will reach a tipping point when improvements outpace pollution and the Bay rebounds exponentially.

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