WHAT is Waterkeepers Chesapeake?

Waterkeepers Chesapeake is a coalition of seventeen independent, non-profit organizations, united around a shared goal of swimmable, fishable waters. Waterkeepers Chesapeake works on clean water issues that our members identify as consensus priorities. By sharing resources and drawing on individual strengths, the members of Waterkeepers Chesapeake can strategize and work regionally to fight for safe and healthy waterways.

WHO are the members of Waterkeepers Chesapeake?

Waterkeepers Chesapeake members are the eighteen independent Waterkeeper programs working within the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay region. Each member of Waterkeepers Chesapeake fights to clean up one or more of those waterways, and together we all work to keep the waters of the entire region healthy and safe. Our members cover five states and Washington, D.C., from the fields of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, to the Atlantic Ocean.

WHERE does Waterkeepers Chesapeake work?

Waterkeepers Chesapeake works in the bays, harbors, rivers and streams of the Chesapeake Bay region. Our members fight to stop pollution in the waters that flow into the Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Bays, working in five states (Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia) and Washington, D.C.

WHAT does Waterkeepers Chesapeake do?

Waterkeepers Chesapeake expands the impact of each member organization to reduce pollution by promoting peer learning, sharing successful strategies and providing technical and legal expertise. We organize collective legal and advocacy campaigns around clean water in the Chesapeake region, coordinate information and resources, and amplify the voices of individual organizations. We also track regional efforts and improve communication among our members to increase effectiveness and coordination. Overall, Waterkeepers Chesapeake gives all of our organizations – and the entire Waterkeeper movement – more influence in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.

WHO does Waterkeepers Chesapeake help?

Waterkeepers Chesapeake helps approximately 17 million people who live in the 64,000 square mile area draining into the Chesapeake Bay and our Coastal Bays. People and local economies in this area depend on healthy and safe water for drinking, recreation, employment and quality of life. By strengthening regional Waterkeeper organizations, Waterkeepers Chesapeake works to help everyone who benefits from clean, safe waterways.

WHAT problem is Waterkeepers Chesapeake trying to solve?

The waterways that flow into the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays are damaged by pollution and waste, and their degraded condition threatens the entire Chesapeake Bay region. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, more than half the watershed’s freshwater streams are in poor condition, almost three-quarters of the Bay’s tidal waters are impaired by chemical contaminants and less than a third of Bay waters meet water-quality standards.

Polluted waterways harm local economies, including tourism and fishing industries, and they threaten public health and safe drinking water. Federal and state agencies have a history of lax enforcement of clean water laws, and polluting industries have been allowed to contaminate local waterways to the detriment of citizens’ rights to fishable, swimmable waters. Waterkeepers Chesapeake works to uphold the Clean Water Act and clean water laws and hold polluters accountable.

We fight every day for businesses, families and communities that depend on clean water.

HOW is Waterkeepers Chesapeake different from individual Waterkeeper programs?

Building upon the work of local member organizations, Waterkeepers Chesapeake works on a regional scale to hold state and federal agencies accountable for cleaning up our waterways. Unlike its member organizations, Waterkeepers Chesapeake does not focus on stopping pollution from any single waterway. Instead, we work on collective campaigns where member organizations can maximize our cumulative impact by working with regional coordination.

WHY is Waterkeepers Chesapeake important? HOW are you different from other environmental organizations?

Waterkeepers Chesapeake and our member organizations are not afraid to take action to defend clean water laws and hold industries and government agencies that harm our waterways accountable. Because our regionally based organizations have a deep connection to local issues in their communities, we work from the “bottom up” to improve the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays. Waterkeeper Chesapeake members are closely connected to their waterways and communities, and we use a full set of advocacy, legal action and citizen enforcement tools to fight for clean water for everyone. Our members have strong community organizing, legal and technical expertise, and we use these skills to protect our public waters and hold polluters accountable for the damage they cause.

WHAT has Waterkeepers Chesapeake accomplished?

For more than a decade, the members of Waterkeepers Chesapeake have successfully joined together to reduce pollution. We have worked regionally to strengthen clean water permit requirements, hold state and local government agencies accountable for reducing pollution, draw attention to inadequate enforcement and improve the public’s ability to report pollution.

Specifically, Waterkeepers Chesapeake has:

  • Led the transparency initiative for Marylanders for Clean Agriculture Coalition (MCAC), developing a transparency agenda for legislation, coordinating with the newly created Marylanders for Open Government (MDOG). As a member of MDOG’s steering committee, helped draft legislation and testimony, testified at hearings, and met with legislators. The Public Information Act Reform bill passed, but unfortunately the agriculture transparency piece of the legislation was stripped from the bill, highlighting once again the power that industrial agriculture has in the Maryland legislature.
  • Challenged the secrecy of Maryland Nutrient Management Plans, resulting in the release of more information to help us identify sources of agriculture pollution impacting our waters (currently on appeal before the Maryland Court of Appeals, after a successful Petition for Certiorari).
  • Challenged Montgomery County’s MS4 Permit, resulting in a successful decision from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals five years after our challenge that the stormwater cleanup requirements issued by state regulators weren’t specific enough, and didn’t have any meaningful deadlines or ways to measure the county’s compliance. The court ordered the Maryland Department of the Environment to revise the MS4 permit to correct the defects.
  • Was instrumental in the adoption of the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) after several years of delay caused by industry opposition. The PMT will reduce pollution by halting the excessive uses of manure on farm fields already contaminated with too much phosphorus.
  • Leading the Fair Farms Maryland campaign that will provide an effective response to the regulatory and legislative framework that creates overwhelming advantages for industrial agricultural polluters and fails to support farmers who are committed to responsible and visionary practices that protect our waterways, and our public health.
  • Through comments and meetings with agency staff, we achieved several substantive revisions to the Maryland General Permit for Confined Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Along with local Waterkeepers and other partners, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assume control over Virginia’s water pollution control program for CAFOs because of the Commonwealth failed to develop and implement a permitting program for factory farms (CAFOs).
  • By commenting on the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment, we successfully urged Maryland to issue an intent to deny Exelon’s 401 Water Quality Certification. Coordinated communications on Conowingo Dam with Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and American Rivers – including website, fact sheets, Choose Clean Water Coalition webinar, letters to the editor, coordination calls with EPA and the Bay Program, blogs, social media
  • Led the effort to pass legislation in Maryland strengthening citizens’ legal standing and ability to challenge federal pollution permits.
  • Filed dedelegation Petition with the EPA to remove Maryland’s authority to administer NPDES permits in an effort to bring better accountability and oversight to the program.
  • Successfully challenged Maryland and Virginia state construction stormwater permits, resulting in favorable settlements that better protect our waters from sediment and other polluted runoff from construction sites.
  • Received Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ Environmental Leadership Award.