The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary* in the United States. Its watershed** stretches across more than 64,000 square miles, encompassing parts of six states — Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia — and the District of Columbia. Its waters provide homes, food and protection for 2,700 species of animals and plants. It also serves as a highway for commerce, a playground, a storehouse of food, and a home for the 13 million people who live in its vast watershed. It is the source of a fish and shellfish industry worth more than $850 million per year.
But in recent years the Chesapeake has become less able to support the fish and wildlife it once did. Increasing amounts of excess nutrients, sediment, and toxic substances are causing serious ecological problems in the Bay. Studies show alarming declines in species of fish and wildlife and in the habitat available to them. In spite of cleanup efforts, the health of the Chesapeake Bay remains very poor.
In December 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued enforceable limits for pollution in the Bay and its tidal rivers through a regulatory plan required under the Clean Water Act called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). A TMDL establishes a “pollution diet” or maximum amount of a pollutant that can be found in a body of water that, if achieved, leads to restoration of that water. Visit our Chesapeake Bay Restoration page for more information about TMDLs.
What You Can Do
- Visit our SOS Project Ideas to learn how you can monitor and restore Bay tributaries and reduce your own pollution footprint.
- Sign up for League Action Alerts to stay informed about more ways you can help accelerate Chesapeake Bay restoration.
IWLA Chooses Clean
The Izaak Walton League is an active member of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, a group of more than 100 national, regional and local groups working together to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. Priorities include using the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization in the Clean Water Act to restore clean water to the Bay and its tributaries; working with EPA and Bay states on an enforceable “pollution diet”; and national climate change legislation.
* An estuary is a body of water formed where freshwater from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with the seawater.
** A watershed is an area of land that drains water, sediment, and dissolved materials to a common outlet.