How Your Watershed Works

The Chesapeake Bay is more than just a body of water: It is an entire watershed. A drop of water falling anywhere in the watershed will eventually make its way from land to creek, creek to stream, stream to river, and river to the Chesapeake Bay. How water is managed in municipalities across the region has major implications for the health of the watershed as a whole. This module will help you get to know the Chesapeake Bay: its watershed, its residents and the role of clean water in helping its communities thrive.

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In this topic you will learn

  1. How do my community’s activities on land impact local water quality?

  2. How do precipitation and water flow affect my community?

  3. How do healthy waterways benefit my community?



Forty percent of direct general expenditures at the local level are invested in elementary and secondary education. Ninety-six percent of parents support environmental education.

A textbook, indicating education.

Economic Development

Fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are worth millions of dollars each year: $79.1 million in blue crab harvests, $45.2 million in oyster harvests and $80.1 million in fishing licenses.

A dollar sign, indicating economic development.

Public Health and Safety

Good water quality means clean drinking water, consumable fish and shellfish, and safe recreation on, in and near local waterways. In a 2019 Gallup poll, 80% of participants were personally worried about the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and 79% were concerned about polluted drinking water.

A heart and a plus sign, indicating public health and safety.

Infrastructure Maintenance and Finance

Green infrastructure can save money over traditional systems of managing rainwater. For example, a typical street tree can intercept between 760 and 3,000 gallons of water per year, depending on its species and age. Planting trees to capture stormwater runoff can reduce floods, slow the erosion of community creeks and lower stress on storm drainage systems.

A house, indicating infrastructure.

Case Studies You'll Find Inside

City of Lancaster

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Investing in Cost-saving Stormwater Control

The City of Lancaster saved over $160 million by pivoting from gray to green stormwater control. The City’s entire stormwater control plan cost less than half of installing an underground stormwater storage tank, which would have required an additional $750,000 in stormwater treatment each year.

A green roof in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The roof is carpeted with a variety of plants, which grow around the mechanical features typical of U.S. commercial buildings. (S. Droter/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Here's How You Can Help

An icon of a blue cloud with rain coming down, indicating precipitation. Reduce impervious surfaces to limit pollutants entering local waterways.
An icon of a green tree and blue tree overlapping, indicating tree canopy. Plant trees and preserve forested areas.
An icon of a closed blue book with a green tree in the bottom right corner, indicating environmental rules, policies or learning opportunities. Invest in environmental education.
An icon of a magnifying glass search tool. Explore opportunities for technical and financial support from state and federal grant programs.

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Explore the conditions of your local waterways and the challenges they face.

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