Chesapeake Bay water quality declining, experts say tests show mixed results

DELMARVA – An alarming new study is revealing that the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality is on the decline.

Only about 30 percent reached clean water standards. Officials warn this number is now lower than in previous years. The Chesapeake Bay is often known as the largest estuary in the United States. A body of water that is home to thousands of different species. But after a recent assessment, environmentalists are concerned with its current conditions.

“In this last assessment, we’re only meeting 30 percent of those conditions around the bay, and that’s been a little less than we got up to 42 percent in the 2017 assessment,” says Peter Tango.

The bay was tested for three measures: dissolved oxygen, water clarity, and chlorophyll. And the results also impact the watershed. “Many stations improving for nitrogen and phosphorus, but were still seeing some getting worse. For example for nitrogen  37% of the stations are getting better but 40% are still getting worse,” says Scott Phillips, with the Chesapeake Bay Program.
So what’s the reason for the quality decrease? Environmentalists say past climate events are to blame. “Because of really intense rainfalls that we had in 2018 and 2019 so when we get more rain we get more pollution coming into the bay and climate change is at play there,” says Beth McGee, Director of Science and Agriculture Policy.
So how does that impact our wildlife? “The issues that we’re most concerned about are dissolved oxygen, which animals that live in the bay need oxygen, 26 and water clarity, which affects how many underwater grasses in the bay we have,” says McGee.
Solutions aren’t too far fetch, here’s what we can do: “Improving their wastewater treatment plant which is where we’re seeing a lot of success, where we’re falling behind is reducing pollution from urban-suburban areas,” says McGee.
Though these results weren’t too promising. Officials say this study was important for further research. “It helps them understand if it is healthy then how do we conserve, preserve the conditions that are keeping it healthy,” says Tango.
Environmentalists say this study needs to be done over a couple of decades because the improvements in the bay are going pretty slow. To learn more about the study visit their website.

For the watershed information: https://cbrim.er.usgs.gov/maps.html.

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