Chesapeake Bay Restoration



The Chesapeake Bay is one of America’s most iconic natural places. It is the largest estuary in the country, and one of the most productive in the world. It is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, and 15 million Americans live along the watershed’s shores.

Unfortunately, after more than a century of abuse, the bay is also one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems. The Bay and its tidal tributaries are overweight with nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment. Each year, nearly 300 million pounds of nitrogen pollution end up in the Chesapeake Bay. The excess nutrients fuel harmful algal blooms that rob the water of oxygen while sediment block sunlight from reaching underwater bay grasses, all of which creates a dead zone that many summers takes up one-third of the Chesapeake Bay. The main sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment are agriculture, urban and suburban runoff, wastewater, and airborne contaminants. Agriculture is the largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution in the watershed.

For more than 25 years, the federal government and the states that are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed have been working together to address the pollution entering the bay. Despite spending billions of dollars on the bay clean up, they have relied on voluntary measures to reduce the pollution loads entering the bay, and time and time again this approach has led to missed deadlines and a lack of substantial progress in restoring this treasured waterway.


Download the NCEL Fact Sheet with key points and links to legislation here

The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a tri-state legislative commission created in 1980 to advise the members of the General Assemblies of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on matters of Bay-wide concern. Fifteen of its 21 members are state legislators. Read more about their projects here

The Chesapeake Bay Program is focused on restoration and protection of the Bay. They have developed an extensive set of resources on key issues impacting the bay such as agricultural runoff, and each page offers an overview of the issue and publications. Learn more about the issues here

This group focuses on telling the story of clean water. They have developed an engaging infographic with key facts about pollution sources impacting the bay ecosystem. You can view the graphic here

This report, Achieving Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Goals in the Chesapeake Bay, is an
an evaluation of program strategies and implementation from 2011. The report is available for download or can be viewed online here.