We’re all familiar with the invaluable Chesapeake Bay, but most aren’t familiar with the detrimental impact that stormwater runoff is having on the bay. This runoff consists of precipitation, or snowmelt, and migrates across surfaces, either infiltrating the ground, or eventually making its way into a surrounding waterbody. In an ideal setting, runoff travels through a strategically planned pathway by means of stormwater drains and permeable surfaces, even stormwater ponds in well-managed areas. You may be wondering why we should be concerned – after all, isn’t that what storm drains are for? In an environment suitable for runoff there wouldn’t be an increase of water levels or contaminants in nearby waterbodies, and water wouldn’t collect in large proportions. However, in the Chesapeake Bay there is a substantial contribution of nitrogen from stormwater runoff, which is the most rapidly increasing source of contamination in the Chesapeake Bay. As the sediment in the runoff settles, the sunlight required by aquatic grass and benthic marine life, such as oysters, is prohibited from penetrating the water deep enough to provide the necessary nutrients. When the oyster population is affected, then oysters are unable to effectively improve water quality as usual. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has several resources for the local community including environmentally conscious landscaping, being mindful of your nitrogen footprint and more. Even simple acts such as spreading awareness, or even becoming a citizen scientist by contacting your local watershed organization are just a few ways to improve current conditions.

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