Murky Waters: A Bird's-Eye View of Chesapeake Bay Runoff

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The Chesapeake Bay—the nation's largest estuary—is fed by rivers and streams in a watershed stretching from New York to Virginia and including the Delmarva Peninsula. The Delmarva region, shared by Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, produces more than half a billion broiler chickens annually and more chicken waste than it can dispose of properly. Growers typically spread this chicken litter on open fields or cropland, but when too much is applied or it's poorly managed, rain washes it into streams and rivers, causing significant water-quality problems in the Chesapeake.

Record rainfall on the East Coast over the past month has washed pollutants from farm fields, industrial animal operations, suburban lawns and urban construction sites throughout the watershed into the Chesapeake.

A satellite image from this week captures the polluted brown waters in the bay and is a striking reminder that every day, through small showers and large storms, what happens on the land does not stay on the land.  

Chesapeake Bay Satellite Image, Source: NASA
Maps via NASA

Photo GalleryTake Action

Efforts to clean up the bay have been under way for more than 20 years, and although some steps have been in the right direction, more action is needed to ensure its future health. The Environmental Protection Agency, a crucial partner of  the states in efforts to clean up the bay, is scheduled to propose a rule to better regulate one of the biggest sources of pollution in the Chesapeake—industrial animal agriculture. However, efforts have begun by some in Congress to strip the EPA of its role in protecting our waterways. 

Please urge your senators to support the EPA and its efforts to keep our waters clean. Look up your senators' contact information here.

Find Out More

Watch our video that shows the connection between Delmarva chicken production and the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Explore the growth of the chicken industry on our interactive map.

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