Watershed Policy & Management
The Chesapeake Bay has one of the highest ratios of landmass to water volume of any estuary in the world, more than 64,000 square miles of land feed into the Bay and its tributaries. This includes six states - New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia - and the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. Activities throughout this entire watershed have a profound effect on water quality and the overall health of the Bay's ecosystem.
This became abundantly clear when early colonists felled forests for agriculture and sent tons of sediment downstream, filling harbors and changing the character of the estuary. Today, impacts continue as farming and, increasingly, construction lay bare the soil and reduce the watershed's capacity to hold and absorb runoff.
To help characterize the long–term threats facing the Bay's watershed, Maryland Sea Grant specialists aided in the production of an independent report by the Chesapeake Bay Program's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, entitled Chesapeake Futures: Choices for the 21st Century. This report spells out the consequences of continuing wasteful land practices and their effects on the estuary.
Maryland Sea Grant also participates in a Collaborative for Land Use Education (CLUE) program that brings together University of Maryland experts from a range of disciplines to study and analyze land use in the Bay region. Additionally, Sea Grant sponsors workshops and programs that empower citizens to voice their visions and concerns about land use in their coastal communities. Maryland Sea Grant believes that with accurate information and careful consideration, growth and development can be managed in a way that sustains both the Bay's natural resources and the character of the Chesapeake and its watershed.