Tuesday, July 9, 2024

University Of Maryland Chesapeake Bay & Watershed Report Card Shows The Same (Watershed) Or Improving (Bay) Water Quality

On July 9, the
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science released its 2023-24 Chesapeake Bay and Watershed Report that gives an overall 'C' grade to Bay Watershed ecological, economic and societal indicators and a 'C+' grade for the Bay which is the highest overall grade for the Bay since 2002.

This report is one of several report cards on Chesapeake Bay/Watershed health.  Others include the Chesapeake Bay Program model estimates reports and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation State of the Bay Report.

Bay Indicators

The overall health score was 55% in 2023, up 4% from the past year. Dissolved oxygen, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and aquatic grasses scores all have significantly improving trends.

Although chlorophyll and water clarity both continue to have declining long-term trends, the indicator scores have improved from 26% and 20% in 2022 to 31% and 24% in 2023, respectively. 

Bay Watershed Indicators

Overall, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed scored 52% (C), the same score as 2022. 

The overall Economic score for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed was 49% (C), decreasing by two points from last year. 

The Societal category scored 47%, the same score as the previous year. 

The overall Ecological score of 59% (C+) is a two-point decrease from last year. 

Click Here for a copy of the report card.

The Chesapeake Bay Journal reported the University of Maryland found the Bay’s Health received exactly the same score in 2002.  Read more here.


“Our Commonwealth’s Constitution states that every Pennsylvanian has a right to clean air and pure water. My Administration takes seriously our responsibility to protect that right, defend the freedom to breathe clean air and drink pure water, and create a better Commonwealth for our children and grandchildren,” said Gov. Josh Shapiro, “This year, the Chesapeake Bay got its highest grade in 22 years, and the portion of the bay that the Susquehanna River flows into got the second-best grade of the entire watershed. Pennsylvania’s portion of the watershed is significantly improving because we’ve brought people together and invested in Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. My Administration is proud of this progress – and we’re going to continue to work to restore the Chesapeake Bay for years to come.”

“The improvements we are celebrating today – cleaner water, better habitat, and healthier watersheds – are the returns on the investments made by Pennsylvania over the last several years. That’s why it’s important to continue to invest, so we can continue to make progress,” said Department of Environmental Protection Acting Secretary Jessica Shirley. “Pennsylvania will build on the momentum from the last five years, and we are committed to continuing this work for years to come, as we work collaboratively to clean up Pennsylvania’s local waterways, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.” 

“Pennsylvania is making unprecedented investments to support farmers who are changing the way they operate to create healthier soil and cleaner water,” said Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Since 2019, those investments have accelerated our progress toward reducing pollution in the Bay nearly two and half times that of the previous 10 years. Since the Shapiro Administration began, $154 million to 700-plus projects through the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program is multiplying the millions invested through PA Farm Bill Conservation Excellence Grants, and Resource Enhancement and Protection tax incentives even further. The data in the Bay Report Card just serve to show that supporting farmers is an effective way to get stuff done for all of us.” 

“Pennsylvania has been hard at work increasing funding and technical assistance with new staff, investments, and partnerships in planting streamside forest buffers, leading all Bay states in buffers planted and accounting for 60 percent of the total amount of buffers planted in the watershed since tracking began in 1996,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.  “This work helps Pennsylvanians who live and recreate in the watershed with cooler waters, less risk of flooding, and better habitat, as well as helping those downstream.”

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission Pennsylvania Delegation,  issued this statement on the report card--

“This most recent progress report speaks to the commitment of our local, state and federal partners, as well as the private partnerships and collaboration with the agriculture community in Pennsylvania.

“The report illustrates the tremendous progress being made in the upper Chesapeake Bay, with a B-, a score second only to the lower Bay which is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. 

“It also reinforces the need to invest in our Clean Streams Fund program, which is quickly drawing down federal ARPA dollars and has been positively transforming the Bay watershed since its inception only a few years ago.”

In response to the report, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration Alison Prost issued the following statement:  

“While a C+ is an improvement, it’s clear that far too much pollution is still entering the Bay.  We can and must do more for the Bay, its rivers and streams, and the communities that depend on them.  

“Chesapeake Bay cleanup has made some tremendous progress, which can be traced back to the dedicated state, federal, and local partnership formed across the watershed.  But there’s still a lot of work to be done.  

“Restoration efforts will not meet goals to reduce pollution by the 2025 deadline. This puts us at a critical moment for the Bay movement. 

“We’ll be unable to tackle the significant challenges ahead unless governors across the Chesapeake Bay watershed publicly recommit to continue working together for a healthy Bay. 

“Updating the Chesapeake Bay Agreement by the end of 2025 represents a critical opportunity for the partnership to set the stage for success. 

“We have seen success in some areas. For example, there’s been consistent recovery and improvement in overall acreage of underwater grasses, however, we’re still less than halfway to meeting the Bay Agreement’s goal for sub-aquatic vegetation. 

“We’ve also collaboratively reduced nutrient pollution from sewage treatment plants that go directly into our waterways, despite population growth and climate change. However, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment from other sources, specifically stormwater runoff and agriculture, remain areas for improvement.  

“Preventing polluted runoff from entering our waterways will require immense collaboration between states and municipalities. But its multi-faceted benefits are well worth it.  

“People, economies, wildlife habitat, fisheries and more all benefit from a healthy Bay. 

“Reports like the Comprehensive Evaluation of Systems Response, or CESR, show us there are approaches to Bay cleanup that could be more effective and efficient, and also help us optimize the use of resources. Revising the Bay Agreement as soon as possible will be critical to putting those lessons into action and extending our progress beyond 2025.” 

For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA webpage.  Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column).  Click Here to support their work.

Also visit the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership to learn how you can help clean water grow on trees.

CBF has over 275,000 members in Bay Watershed.

Visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed webpage to learn more about cleaning up rivers and streams in Pennsylvania's portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates on Pennsylvania’s progress.

How Clean Is Your Stream?

The draft 2024 report has an interactive report viewer that allows you to zoom in to your own address to see if the streams near you are impaired and why.

Click Here to check out your streamsClick Here for a tutorial on using the viewer.


-- Chesapeake Bay Journal: Report Card Gives Chesapeake Bay A C+, Its Best Grade In 21 Years; Bay’s Health Received The Same Score In 2002

-- PennLive: Blamed For Chesapeake Bay Pollution, PA Took Steps To Clean Up - Here’s How It’s Going

-- AP: Overall Health Of Chesapeake Bay Gets Best Grade In More Than 2 Decades, Annual Report Shows

[Posted: July 9, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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