The Chesapeake Bay and its vast watershed face many ecological challenges. Here are some of the main issues. To read more, or to link to more sources of information, click on the paragraph headings.
Our faith traditions teach us that as God loves us, God loves future generations also. For them must act sustainably. We now see more clearly that it is our responsibility to think ahead and to conserve precious resources in ways that ensure they will last.
Many of the Bay’s problems are caused by the visible and invisible substances that flow into it from its many tributaries. Nutrients are those substances that stimulate growth of plants and algae. When this happens excessively, and the tiny plants die in the water, their decay process uses up oxygen in the water. Sediments and toxic chemicals further threaten living creatures and the natural cycles of life in the water.
Addressing the problem of pollution from “non-point sources” is very challenging. These sources include water that naturally flows off streets, gardens, fields, forests, playgrounds, parking lots, rooftops, backyards, septic drain fields and everywhere that rain falls.
Agriculture is a main industry in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, essential to provide food for the millions who live here. Farmers, large and small, are of fundamental importance to our economy and our well being. Farmers are the primary caretakers of our land. Its fertility and its sustainability are entrusted to their expert management. Farmers are increasingly aware that they can and must take steps to protect the water, to keep the streams clean, for it is this same water that provides for the thirst of their neighbors and themselves and ultimately provides for the needs of the entire watershed and the Bay.
Experts have determined Total Maximum Daily Loads for pollutants and sediments (TMDLs). This is the maximum amount of pollutants that can be permitted in order to restore health to the rivers and the Bay. Local governments are to establish Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) to outline how they will achieve their TMDLs.
Hydraulic Fracturing as a method for extracting natural gas from shale rock formations is controversial. The environmental arguments against this process, apart from the harm to local infrastructure and impact on the rural communities involved, mostly are concerned with the use of large volumes of water, and polluted discharges into streams.
Too much of the waste we generate in the Chesapeake Bay watershed becomes trash and a lot of trash ends up in our waterways. Non-biodegradable trash first of all is ugly, and spoils the natural beauty of our streams and coves. Old tires, discarded appliances, toys, bottles, cans, pallets and all manner of junk accumulates. The most pernicious floating objects, however, are the plastic bags and containers that are carelessly dropped into storm drains or thrown into streams.