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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.

Watershed Implementation Plan

Pennsylvania amended its Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan in July 2022 to include all Countywide Action Plans and other measures, demonstrating how, if funding support is provided, we will achieve 100 percent of our water quality restoration goals. Click on the links below to view the amended executive summary and amended plan.

Pennsylvania’s targets:

  • Nitrogen: Reduce by 34.13 million pounds per year
  • Phosphorus: Reduce by 0.75 million pounds per year
  • Sediment (soil): Reduce by 2.16 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.

In October 2023, DEP’s Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management (BWRNSM) hosted the first Clean Water Gathering of State Program Action Leaders and Countywide Action Planning (CAP) leaders. Over 80 partners, representing county, state and federal organizations, came together to celebrate successes and discuss high level needs, issues and challenges to continued progress. BWRNSM's Chesapeake Bay Watershed Restoration Division continues to work collaboratively with state and county leaders on Clean Water Progress Teams that are utilizing the Clean Water Gathering recommendations to focus on "Strategies for Success" that address challenges and build on successes from Phase 3 WIP and CAP efforts.


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