Monday, November 13, 2006

State of Our Waterways

Chesapeake Bay Wetland / USFWS

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has released its annual report on the health of the Bay. The result is better this year than previous years: 29 instead of 27 out of a possible 100. This comes out to a D- on the CBF scale. The score is based on a variety of factors, including levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, health of aquatic vegetation, and presence of dead zones. Here is some interpretation:
"Maybe, just maybe, 2006 will be remembered as the turning point of the bay," said foundation president William C. Baker. "But this report isn't good news. Clearly a great deal more needs to be done. It's time to get serious about saving the bay."

Baker said weather made the biggest difference in the bay's slight improvement; rain washes pollutants into the bay, so the dry weather helped.

Despite the generally gloomy assessment, Baker praised Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania for beginning to address the bay's two biggest pollutants, nitrogen and phosphorus, which come primarily from farm runoff and sewage treatment plants. In the past decade, the states have encouraged the planting of cover crops, restoring forest buffers and managing farm waste.
Here is the full State of the Bay report.

The CBF also recently released a report on water quality in the Anacostia River. The report showed some improvement but not enough to move the river above its failing grade.
Improvements were seen in fecal coliform bacteria, suspended solids, dissolved oxygen, wetlands, and government action. The rising score is linked to early efforts to reduce sewage leaks and overflows and stream restoration efforts. Trash, toxics, and nitrogen pollution, largely a result of stormwater runoff, showed no improvement this year.
Obviously the river still has a long way to go.