What is the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint?

Most experts consider the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint the Chesapeake Bay's best, and perhaps last, chance for real restoration.

Why This is the Moment in Time for the Chesapeake Bay

It comes at a time when great progress has already been achieved. Some estimates suggest pollution to the Bay has been halved, and signs of recovery abound. With success in our sight, this is no time to turn and go backwards. But that is precisely what some want.

What is the Blueprint?

A Clean Water Act provision known legally as a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL is a scientific estimate of the maximum amount of pollution a body of water listed officially as "impaired" can accommodate and still meet water quality standards.

In December 2010—after years of missed deadlines for restoration and no consequences—the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exercised its Clean Water Act authorities by releasing enforceable pollution limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay (the Bay TMDL). Subsequently, the six Bay states and the District of Columbia released their plans, called Watershed Implementation Plans or WIPs, to meet those limits by 2025. Together the pollution targets and the states' plans comprise a Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams.

In 2014, representatives from the entire watershed signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. For the first time, Delaware, New York, and West Virginia committed to full partnership in the Bay Program. The agreement includes the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals for 2017 and 2025, but also established goals for habitat restoration and conservation, improving fisheries, increasing public access public access, and environmental literacy, to name a few.

What Will the Blueprint Do?

If fully implemented, the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint will ensure pollution reduction and result in the "fishable, swimmable" waters promised by the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Blueprint does three things:

  • ensures everyone shares in the responsibility for cleaning up our waterways;
  • sets two-year, incremental pollution-reduction goals—known as milestones—to keep progress on track; and
  • imposes consequences for failure, ensuring states and localities will meet their responsibilities.

This Time Really Is Different

What makes this Blueprint better than the previous failed efforts is that it has teeth. For the first time, the states have each committed to two-year incremental milestones of pollution reduction. EPA can and will impose consequences for failure. If the Blueprint is fully implemented, the Bay should come off the impaired waters list.

Obstacles the Blueprint Faces

Legal challenges by national corporate lobbyists, anti-Bay legislation, rumor-mongering, and worries about cost all threaten to derail the state-federal Bay cleanup.

You Can Help

The Bay's problems have been identified; we have the know-how and tools to fix them; and the health, economic, and quality of life benefits of a restored Chesapeake Bay outweigh cleanup costs. If we work together to make the Blueprint work, many scientists believe the Bay will reach a tipping point when improvements outpace pollution and the Bay rebounds exponentially.

It's critically important that citizens get involved. And it's not too hard.

  • Join CBF's Action Network to receive e-mails regarding actions you can take to Save the Bay™.
  • Tell your Congressman and Senators that clean water is important to you and urge them to support clean water legislation and oppose legislation that would derail the Bay TMDL by calling, writing, or visiting them.Attend a public meeting of local governing bodies.
  • Ditto your state and local representatives and ask them to finalize and implement strong plans to achieve the Bay pollution limits and provide ample Bay funding.
  • Write a letter of support to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Attend a public meeting of local governing bodies.
  • Become a Speaker for the Bay. CBF will provide the tools and materials needed to present the Save the Baymessage to local community groups and organizations.
  • Walk the walk. Reduce pollution from your home, back yard, school, or business.

Decades of Success: The 1970s

Even as a young organization, our work was effective and got noticed. Find out what we did.

Explore Our Timeline

Stay Up-to-Date on Bay News

Want to stay up-to-date on all news and happenings in your region and across the Chesapeake watershed? Join our digital community.

Sign Up
This website uses cookies to tailor and enhance your online experience. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, including details on how to disable cookies, please visit our Privacy Policy. Close