USGS Contributes to Revised Plans for Chesapeake Water-Quality and Toxic Contaminant Goal

Science Center Objects

Issue: The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), through the Strategic Review System (SRS), reviews progress toward the 10 goals and associated outcomes of the Chesapeake Watershed Agreement. Each outcome is managed by a specific CBP Goal Implementation Team and their associated workgroups. During review of each outcome every two years, a workgroup is responsible to prepare materials for (1) summarizing progress over the past two years, (2) identifying challenges that must be addressed, and (3) revising plans for the next two years.

Outcomes for the Water-Quality Goal and Toxic Contaminant Goals were reviewed during 2020:

  • Water-Quality Goal: Reduce pollutants to achieve the water quality necessary to support aquatic living resources in the Bay and its tributaries and protect human health. There are two outcomes: (1) 2025 Watershed implementation Plan, and (2) Water Quality Standards Attainment and Monitoring.
  • Toxic Contaminant Goal: Ensure that the Bay and its rivers are free of the effects of toxic contaminants on living resources and human health. There are two outcomes: (1) Toxic Contaminant Policy and Prevention, and (2) Toxic Contaminant Research.

The updated management strategies and actions plans for each outcome were released in Jan 2021, and cover 2021-22.

USGS Contributions:
The USGS led the updates of materials for two outcomes (1) Standards Attainment and Monitoring, and (2) Toxic Contaminant Research; and contributed to the updates for the other outcomes. A summary for these two outcomes led by USGS is below.

Water Quality Standards Attainment and Monitoring Outcome:
The focus of the outcome is “Continually improve the capacity to monitor and assess the effects of management actions being undertaken to implement the Bay TMDL and improve water quality.” The four science approaches being addressed during 2021-22 are:

  • Enhance monitoring for standard attainment and tidal and non-tidal water quality and produce quality data.
  • Assess and report changes in attainment of water-quality standards, and nontidal and tidal trends.
  • Further explain and communicate the factors affecting trends and better understand response to management practices.
  • Contribute to better understanding of co-benefits of water-quality restoration to selected habitats and living resources.

The USGS led the update of materials for this outcome working closely with CBP partners. USGS has multiple activities to support this outcome including (1) updating nutrient and sediment trends in the watershed, (2) better understanding the water-quality response to management practices and other watershed factors, and (3) assessing tidal water changes from watershed inputs (such as river flow, nutrient loads). For more information on USGS-led aspects of the revised plans contact:

Toxic Contaminant Research Outcome:
The focus of this outcome is “Continually increase our understanding of the impacts and mitigation options for toxic contaminants”. The approaches for this outcome during 2021-22 include:

  • Synthesize scientific information to make fish and shellfish safer for human consumption;
  • Understand the influence of contaminants degrading the health, and contributing to mortality, of fish and wildlife;
  • Document the sources, occurrence, and transport contaminants in different landscape settings.
  • Synthesize and promote science to help mitigate contaminants and emphasize the co-benefits with nutrients and sediment reductions; and
  • Gather information on issues of emerging concern.

The plans for this outcome were revised by the Toxic Contaminant Workgroup, under leadership of the USGS. USGS has multiple projects contributing to this outcome, and the results help inform policy and practices to reduce the impacts of contaminants on fish and wildlife. For more information on the revised toxic contaminant research plans contact Emily Majcher, USGS (

Management Applications:
Standards Attainment and Monitoring: The science produced by agencies working on the Attainment and Monitoring Outcome will be used by the jurisdictions to inform implementation of their Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs). The WIPs describe the actions the jurisdictions intend to implement by 2025 necessary to meet applicable water-quality standards in the Bay and its tidal tributaries.

Toxic Contaminant Research Outcome: The findings will be used by the CBP Toxic Contaminant Workgroup (TCW) and Water-Quality Goal Implementation Team (WQ GIT) to consider policy and prevention approaches to reduce the effects of contaminants on living resources in the Bay watershed and make them safer for human consumption.

For more information:


Posted February 5, 2021


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