Change Starts At The Top

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science released the 2021 Chesapeake Bay Report Card, which is an assessment of a number of parameters that are used to indicate the current health of the Chesapeake Bay. The report card compares seven parameters, such as dissolved oxygen, water clarity, and total nitrogen/phosphorus, to goals that have been previously set for attainment. These indicators make up the Overall Health Index, which is used to score bay subregions. The Chesapeake Bay scored 50% (C+ Grade) in 2021, which is five percentage points higher than the 2020 report.


The report card also includes a score associated with the watershed. This score builds on the aquatic indicators and includes terrestrial and social factors in the score to give a more holistic result. A summary of the indicators can be found here. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed scored a C+ Grade. Bay tributaries were further broken down into upper, middle, and lower sections and received a score. The Upper James River received the highest score, a B- Grade, for these 23 different watershed regions. A breakdown of the Upper James' score is shown in the figure to the right.


The score for the Upper James watershed should make regional stakeholders proud. It shows the area is committed to the preservation and conservation of its natural resources. There is still room for improvement with the region's score. Best Management Practices (BMPs) are a way to continue to help reduce pollution loads into the James River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. There are a variety of different practices that can be used in an urban, agricultural, or residential setting. BMPs can be as simple as installing a rain barrel in your backyard, but they also address complex pollution issues like stormwater runoff from urban surfaces. To learn more about the different types of BMPs and how they work, take a look at the examples under the BMPs tab. There are also links to various funding sources to help get your project started.

Riparian buffer at Catawba Sustainability Center

Upper James River Score Breakdown

Leading the Way

Virginia Planning District Commissions (PDCs)

Through active engagement with local stakeholders, PDCs will develop Input Decks for urban and developed land uses that meet the LAPGs in a format that best suits the dynamic communities in their regions. It is critical that local government leaders are involved in developing the Input Decks to ensure the suite of BMPs are realistic, reflect local priorities, will benefit local communities and clearly identify the resources (e.g., funding, technical support) that are needed to get the job done.


Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs)

Pollutant reductions from agricultural lands are critical to meeting Phase III WIP goals. SWCDs provide critical technical assistance for farmers implementing agricultural BMPs that improve and protect the quality of streams and rivers. SWCDs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will work with local agricultural communities to determine the BMPs that
are needed to achieve water cleanup goals while also meeting the needs of farmers.