Chesapeake Bay FAQ and definitions.
  • How big is the Chesapeake Bay watershed? The watershed stretches across more than 64,000 square miles in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

  • How deep is the Chesapeake Bay? The Bay is surprisingly shallow. Its average depth, including all tidal tributaries, is about 21 feet. A person who is 6 feet tall could wade through more than 700,000 acres of the Bay and never get his or her hat wet.

  • What is a watershed? A watershed is an area of land that drains to a particular river, lake, bay, or other body of water.

  • Who lives in the Chesapeake Bay watershed? The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to more than 17.7 million people. About 150,000 new people move into the Bay watershed each year. The Bay also supports more than 2,700 species of plants and animals.

  • How much of West Virginia drains in the Chesapeake Bay? West Virginia is a total of 24,230 square miles. Of that total, 3,570 (~14%) square miles drains into the Bay.

  • Which rivers and streams flow into the Chesapeake Bay? In West Virginia, the Potomac River and its many tributaries flow into the Bay. There are also some small creeks in Monroe County that are in the James River watershed.

  • What is a tributary? A tributary is a creek, stream, or river that flows into a larger body of water. For example, the Shenandoah, Potomac, and Cacapon rivers are tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

  • What is the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, which identifies the necessary pollution reductions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment for the states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. These reductions were set to meet the applicable water quality standards of the Bay.

  • Where do nutrients come from? In general, nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus reach the Chesapeake Bay from three sources: wastewater treatment plants; urban, suburban, and agricultural runoff; and air pollution. Nutrients can also come from natural sources, like soil, plant material, and wild animal waste.

  • Why are excess nutrients a problem for the Chesapeake Bay? Excess nutrients fuel the growth of harmful algae blooms. These algae blooms block sunlight and during decomposition, rob the water of oxygen thus suffocating marine life.

  • What are Best Management Practices (BMPs)? BMPs are conservation practices that have been created to reduce a property’s nutrient and sediment pollution. Some common agricultural BMPs include nutrient management planning, cover crops, forest buffers, streamside fencing, alternative watering facilities, and animal waste storage facilities. Residential BMPs can include things such as rain gardens, rainwater harvesting, and permeable driveways

  • How is the Chesapeake Bay Program funded? Congress, state and local governments, landowners, and businesses all contribute to funding for the effort. Section 117 of the Clean Water Act authorizes several million dollars of federal appropriations for the Chesapeake Bay Program annually. This results in cost-sharing grants through federal and state agencies that have a responsibility to protect and improve water quality by implementing program requirements and projects.

    This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement 96333301 to West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does the EPA endorse trade names or recommend the use of commercial products mentioned in this document.

To see a Bay Glossary for the terminology used please follow this link:   (external link)