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Water Resources

Chesapeake Bay Water Quality

A defining feature of the Hampton Roads region is its location at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, which is known as the “world’s greatest natural harbor.” A significant portion of the regional economy derives from the competitive advantage provided by this natural harbor, which enhances the region’s capabilities to support military activities, foreign trade operations, and port facilities, and tourism and recreational activities. The Chesapeake Bay is about 200 miles long, home to more than 3,700 species of plants, fish and other animals. The Bay watershed totals about 64,000 square miles, stretching from Cooperstown, New York, to Hampton Roads. Nearly 17 million people live in the watershed.


Reducing pollution is critical to the health of the Chesapeake Bayand our local waterways. Activities on land can increase the amount of sediment and nutrients deposited in waterways, causingwidespread water quality problems in streams, creeks, rivers and estuaries. At its healthiest in the early 1600s, the Chesapeake Bay watershed wasmainly comprised of forested buffers, wetlands, and resources lands(open space and farmland) that absorbed and filtered nutrients and sediment. Asdevelopment occurred throughout the watershed, farms, factories,cities, and suburbs have replaced natural wetland filters and forestedbuffer areas, resulting in the increased flow of sediment and nutrients intowaterways.

Healthy Chesapeake Bay

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution are the most serious problemsfacing the Chesapeake Bay. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus cause algaeblooms that block sunlight to underwater grasses. When the bloomsdecompose, they create “dead zones,” where dissolved oxygen levelsare too low to sustain fish and shellfish. Excess sediment alsodegrades water quality. Poor water quality results in the loss ofhabitat for aquatic species throughout the Bay and its tidal and freeflowing rivers.


HRPDC supports regional and state-level efforts to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. HRPDC was involved in the development of tributary strategies for the James and York Rivers,which preceded the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. HRPDC remains engaged in Virginia’s efforts to implement the Chesapeake Bay TMDL in Hampton Roads.More information on HRPDC’s program activities to improve and protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay is provided at the links below:

Contact Water Resources




8:00am to 4:30pm Monday - Friday

The Regional Building
723 Woodlake Drive
Chesapeake, VA 23320