Robert Jennings of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation recently coordinated a six session training for local volunteers taught by various experts in water quality— a thorough introduction to understanding impacts and water management strategies for our local streams and rivers which feed the Chesapeake Bay. These VoiCeS (Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards) classes have been held throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed since 2004. This was the first time they were offered in the Valley.

Kate Guenther, Cohort I, attended and learned about the “blueprint” that has been developed to heal the bay over a 15 year period through 2025. We are halfway through that period, but not quite halfway to all the goals set. One of the biggest culprits—nitrogen pollution—comes from the five Bay states: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware.

Nitrogen pollution sources:

  • Agricultural runoff- 41%
  • Air pollution- 25%
  • Wastewater treatment and factories- 16%
  • Urban/Suburban storm water runoff- 15%
  • Septic- 3%

The class learned about the best management practices (BMPs) that can help all rivers and streams— practices such as fencing cattle out of streams, improving riparian buffers, no-till agriculture practices, reducing impervious surfaces, using retention ponds, upgrading water treatment facilities, reducing turf, and rainwater harvesting. We also learned about water risks due to construction of pipelines over mountainous terrain.

We learned about the Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) that set the goals for the states to reach by 2025. In 2018, the EPA is supposed to be rolling out a new state-of-the-art model to assess the health of the Chesapeake Bay, which is showing signs of improvement with a return of underwater grasses and increased clarity of the water. Much of the “low hanging fruit” of improvement strategies have been implemented, so from here on out it will be a bit of a heavy lift.

While the Bay is improving now, pollution is still expected to increase due to forecasted growth in the five states. Urban and suburban storm water runoff controls will be enormously important to improve and expand as the WIP plan goes forward.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation brought a great class to our region and now our locale has about 15 new nominally trained volunteers to help us save our streams.

– Kate Guenther, Cohort I, November 2018

The two photos below courtesy of Robert Jennings. Click on them to get a full view and caption.


Photo at the top of the page was taken from a NASA Earth Observatory image by Mike Taylor, using Landsat WELD data from Valeriy Kovalskyy and David Roy (South Dakota State University) and water data from Steve Foga (USGS).

Image below: NASA Earth Observatory map by Joshua Stevens, using data from the Chesapeake Bay Program