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Pennsylvania's Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan

Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities

Many residents are working together to restore and protect streams and rivers in Pennsylvania's part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, because they value what clean local waters mean for quality of life:

  • Clean drinking water 
  • Food and beverage production by farmers
  • Public health
  • Less erosion and flooding, reducing the expense of related repairs
  • Property value protection
  • Outdoor experiences such as fishing, boating, and swimming
  • Income from recreation and tourism businesses
  • Habitat for fish, insects, birds, animals

Chesapeake Bay Watershed in PA

Goal: Less Nutrient and Sediment Pollution

More than 12,000 miles of streams in Pennsylvania's part of the watershed have high levels of three types of pollutants:

  • soil from excessive erosion 
  • nitrogen and phosphorus from too much fertilizer use

Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that are required for plant and animal growth, but in abundance, they lead to pollution through runoff and leaching into groundwater. When it rains, these pollutants run off surfaces such as farm fields, streets, and parking lots and go right into streams and rivers. Nitrogen that leaches into wells can lead to high levels of nitrate nitrogen in drinking water, which is unhealthy for pregnant women and children.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires Pennsylvania and our neighbors in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia) to reduce these pollutants by specific amounts by 2025.

Pennsylvania’s targets:

  • Nitrogen: Reduce by 34 million pounds per year
  • Phosphorus: Reduce by 0.7 million pounds per year
  • Sediment (soil): Reduce by 531 million pounds per year

Planning. Partnership. Progress

The Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture, and Conservation and Natural Resources coordinated a process with many partners to develop a plan to meet these goals. The plan is called Pennsylvania's Chesapeake Bay Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan, or "Phase 3 WIP."

The Phase 3 WIP incorporates the views and expertise of hundreds of Pennsylvanians who are government, agricultural, industry, business, community, and academic leaders and residents in the watershed. It breaks down the challenge reducing nutrient and sediment pollution across the watershed by taking a county by county framework.

Countywide Action Plan: Why is this Valuable to My County?

Your participation is needed! Help improve your local water quality and benefit your community by getting involved in your local countywide action planning.

Countywide Planning Process

In 2020 four counties—Bedford, Centre, Cumberland, and Lebanon—are in the process of developing their Countywide Action Plans to improve local water quality. DEP provided a Community Clean Water Planning Guide and Toolbox to county leaders that describes the local planning process and information about the Phase 3 WIP, watershed wide initiatives, and countywide expectations.  Learn about the planning process in this webinar: Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities. Find out more and get involved in these counties’ efforts here.

Four counties—Adams, Franklin, Lancaster, and York—have already developed their Countywide Action Plans and are now in the process of implementing them, using the Community Clean Water Implementation Guide and Toolbox to further assist county leaders in implementing their Countywide Action Plan for clean water.  Find out more and get involved in these counties’ efforts here.

In all eight counties, ach of the eight Pilot and Tier 2 counties for Community Clean Water Action Plan Coordinators, with state funding from DEP. The role of the coordinators is exclusively focused on leading, coordinating and supporting the work of creating and implementing their county’s Phase 3 WIP Countywide Action Plan (CAP). Utilizing the goals and objectives laid out in the CAP, the coordinator will exercise considerable independence, leadership and judgment in planning, scheduling, coordinating and completing the work.

The coordinator serves as the point of contact to their assigned county and is funded through an agreement between DEP and the lead organization of the county planning team. These coordinators provide regular progress updates to DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office WIP coordination staff. They support county efforts to develop and implement their Countywide Action Plan. DEP is planning to begin outreach and engagement with the other 35 counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in a phased manner beginning in late summer and early fall of 2020.


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