Legislative History Post

Eutrophication impacts many different areas and watersheds throughout the United States.  One particular watershed that’s been greatly affected by eutrophication is The Chesapeake Bay.  The Environmental Protection Agency partnered with surrounding states, to put the Bay on a “pollution diet”. This plan was split into 3 phases, and the EPA checks in every 2 years to check in on how each of the states and the district of Columbia have been doing. The TMDL, or total maximum daily load, was established in 2010, in order to fully restore the Chesapeake Bay from the effects of eutrophication by 2025.

What is the Policy?

The policy is commonly referred to as TMDL, which is a total maximum daily load of “a pollutant a waterway can receive and still meet applicable water quality standards” (EPA, n.d.).  These pollutants come from “point sources [that] include sewage treatment plants, stormwater discharges, industrial discharges, etc. [and] nonpoint sources [that] include pollutants carried by rainfall runoff from forests, agricultural lands, atmospheric deposition, abandoned land mines, etc.” (EPA, n.d.).  “The Bay TMDL set annual Bay watershed limits of 185.9 million pounds of nitrogen, 12.5 million pounds of phosphorus, and 6.45 billion pounds of sediment. That represents, based on 2009 levels, a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen, 24 percent reduction in phosphorus and 20 percent reduction in sediment. These limits are divided by state and river basin based on state-of-the-art modeling tools, extensive monitoring data, peer-reviewed science, and close interaction with Bay partners” (EPA, n.d.). 

Why the Chesapeake Bay?

While the EPA has done many TMDL’s throughout the nation’s watersheds, the Chesapeake Bay is “the largest and most complex thus far” (EPA, n.d.). The Chesapeake’s TMDL is special because it ensures accountability for pollution and meeting progress milestones.  “Despite extensive restoration efforts over 25 years, the Bay TMDL was prompted by continued poor water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. The TMDL is required under the Clean Water Act and responds to consent decrees in Virginia and the District of Columbia from the late 1990s. It is also a keystone commitment of a federal strategy to meet President Obama’s Executive Order 13508 to restore and protect the Bay” (EPA, n.d.).  The Bay is “about 200 miles long, home to more than 3,700 species of plants, fish and other animals. The Bay watershed totals about 64,000 square miles, covering parts of six states and the District of Columbia. It stretches from Cooperstown, New York, to Norfolk, Virginia. Nearly 18 million people live in the watershed, and the population is growing by more than 130,000 each year” (EPA, n.d.).

What’s Been Done? 

Many positive outcomes have come about as a result of the Chesapeake Bay Program.  One outcome is a smaller-than-predicted dead zone. In 2020 the deadzone is “9%  lower than the average measured over the past 34 years” (Abrusci, 2020). Another outcome is that levels of nitrogen pollution were “17% below the long-term average” (Abrusci, 2020).  While these numbers may seem small at face-value, the positive impacts that come along with them is more than significant.  


Abrusci, G. (2020, July 28). Slightly smaller-than-average 2020 ‘dead zone’ predicted for the Chesapeake Bay. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://sevenseasmedia.org/slightly-smaller-than-average-2020-dead-zone-predicted-for-the-chesapeake-bay/

Frequent Questions about the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. (2019, August 19). Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/chesapeake-bay-tmdl/frequent-questions-about-chesapeake-bay-tmdl

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