Almost seventeen million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a number that increases by approximately 100,000 annually. As a result, the Bay is suffering. But if each person made a few simple changes in his or her lifestyle, we could make a huge difference for all who live here, from the fish, crabs, and oysters to the human population. The first step is education; the second step, action.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and the third largest estuary in the world. It is 200 miles long with an average depth of 21 feet; however, the Bay is mostly shallow with a few deep channels. The Bay has about 11,600 miles of shoreline and holds more than 15 trillion gallons of water. There are five major rivers that empty into the Bay: the James, York, Rappahannock, Potomac, and Susquehanna Rivers. The Bay is home to about 3,600 migratory and resident species of plants and animals. For humans, the Chesapeake Bay is very important both economically and recreationally.
The Chesapeake Bay is surrounded by a watershed that encompasses 64,000 square miles and includes parts of six states (New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland) and Washington DC. Seventeen million people live in the watershed, 10 million of which live along the shoreline of the Bay (an example of how people concentrate around the Bay because of its importance to them). All of the water (groundwater, creeks, streams, rivers, rainwater, water from showers, sinks, and hoses) within the Chesapeake Bay watershed eventually reaches the Bay, and anything that is capable of being carried by water can eventually reach the Bay as well, examples include: pesticides used on agriculture; fertilizer used on crops, gardens, and lawns; fecal matter from animals and pets, gasoline from spills; oil that leaks from cars; sediment; trash; and toxins and chemicals from cleaning products, beauty products, and prescription drugs.
For those who live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, it is our responsibility to make every effort to keep the Bay clean and healthy.