Why Do We Measure the Cost of Water Pollution?
Clean water in our streams, lakes, rivers, bays and oceans provides clean drinking water, plentiful fish, crab and oyster populations, safe and enjoyable swimming and boating opportunities and other benefits, such as scenic water views, increased property values and healthy aquatic life. When water becomes polluted, through excess nutrients, sediments, or toxic chemicals, costs in cleaning up the water and reducing pollution occur. In addition, there are many more costs that result from losses to tourism, recreational-and fisheries-based economies, property values and the difficult-to-value, but impossible-to-replace habitats, plants and animals that depend on healthy waters.
Overall, water quality has improved since the 1950s, as seen by the decrease in amounts of degraded water in the graph. Water quality showed a sharp improvement during the late 1970s into the early 1990s due to the pollution laws of the 1972 Clean Water Act. These laws significantly reduced the amounts of pollution directly discharged into streams and rivers. From the mid 1990s on to the present day, water quality conditions have remained fairly steady, showing a slight improvement due to restoration efforts from the Chesapeake Bay Agreements and Maryland's commitment to higher environmental standards.
- Introduction to Maryland’s waters and their protection and restoration
- Eyes on the Bay: Monitoring Bay Water Quality
- The Maryland Biological Stream Survey
- Frequently Asked Questions on Water Quality Standards
- U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
- National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA. Fisheries Economics of the U.S., 2006.
- Frequently Asked Questions on Total Maximum Daily Loads
by Governor O'Malley
A Plan to Restore the Chesapeake Bay
Maryland is now implementing a detailed regional plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay and improve local waterways. In 2010, the State's Phase I Watershed Implementation Plan was developed by Maryland government agencies along with input from more than 1,000 Marylanders who attended public meetings and provided comments. Throughout 2011, State officials worked with local, county-based teams to develop Maryland's Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan, which includes specific, locally based strategies to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution. Maryland’s goal is to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pollution reduction standards by 2020 – five years ahead of the federal target.
Bay Restoration Milestone Highlights
Maryland planted a record 429,818 acres of cover crops, which is 123% of the 2009-2011 milestone goals. This action prevented 2.58 million pounds of nitrogen and 86,000 pounds of phosphorus from impacting the Bay and its tributaries. Working with county and municipal partners, Maryland prevented more than 1.5 million pounds of nitrogen from entering the Bay and local waterways each year by upgrading 25 of the State's largest wastewater treatment plants, with another 16 upgrades scheduled to be completed by the end of next year. This results in Maryland meeting 165% of its wastewater goals. To address stormwater pollution, the State is using state-of-the-art environmental site design on new development and retrofitting old development, which is preventing more than 106,000 pounds of nitrogen from entering the Chesapeake Bay, thereby meeting 88% of its goals. By implementing the Healthy Air Act – the toughest power plant emission law on the East Coast – Maryland is preventing more than 331,000 pounds of nitrogen from entering the Bay each year, which is 100% of its goals. And to naturally remove nutrients and stabilize wildlife habitats, Maryland planted 895 acres of forest buffers, which is 166% of our goal.
Marylanders Grow Oysters
Hundreds of Maryland waterfront property owners are now growing millions of young oysters in cages in a dozen Bay tributaries. Their goal? To protect young oysters during their vulnerable first year of life, so they may be planted on local sanctuaries where the oysters enrich the ecosystem and our oyster population.