The latest report from the Chesapeake Bay Program notes a 14% drop in nitrogen and phosphorus from a 2009 baseline, and a 4% decline in sediment, according to the program’s water quality monitoring and computer model estimates. Those declines bring nitrogen levels 49% of the bay’s goal for 2025. Phosphorus levels now stand at 64% of the 2025 goal and sediment amounts have already reached that goal.
Nitrogen and phosphorus feed the algae blooms that cause low oxygen dead zones; sediment clouds water and cuts the light plants need to flourish, which it turn pressures crabs, fish and other wildlife numbers.
Virginia’s conservation efforts put it a bit ahead of the average. The state has hit 75% of its 2025 goal for nitrogen and 68% of its goal for phosphorus. It has reached its sediment goal.
While West Virginia and Washington, D.C., hit 100% of their 2025 goals, none of the other states in the watershed hit their 2021 targets for nitrogen and phosphorus reduction, however. Several permit violations at Maryland wastewater facilities in Maryland that actually increased the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that entered the bay from that state.
Farmers’ efforts accounted for more than three-quarters of the reduction in nitrogen, the Bay Program said. The Chesapeake Bay Program is a partnership of state, local and federal agencies, as well as colleges and nonprofit associations focused on cleaning up the Bay.
Phosphorus and sediment runoff from farms also declined.
“It is troubling that pollution is increasing in other areas like wastewater in Maryland. and polluted runoff from developed land,” said Beth McGee, director of science policy at the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
And, she added, “While we continue to see reductions in pollution from agriculture, the pace is insufficient to achieve the 2025 goals.”
Although pollution runoff is declining, “the road to finishing the job is steep and climate change is a serious threat to progress,” she said.