This unique estuary is the largest in the nation and third largest in the world. Its 64,000-square-mile watershed encompasses parts of six states – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia – and the entire District of Columbia. Threading through the Chesapeake watershed are more than 100,000 streams and rivers, or tributaries, that eventually flow into the Bay. Everyone in the Bay watershed lives within a few minutes of one of these streams and rivers, which are like pipelines from our communities to the Bay. The Bay and its watershed have remarkable ecological, economic, recreational, historic, and cultural value to the City of Alexandria and the region.
Clear, healthy water is essential to the plants and animals that live in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. Healthy water contains a balanced amount of nutrients and has normal fluctuations in salinity and temperature. It also has plenty of dissolved oxygen so fish, crabs and other aquatic life can breathe and few suspended sediments so underwater bay grasses receive enough sunlight to grow.
Any precipitation in an urban or suburban area that does not evaporate or soak into the ground, but instead pools and travels downhill is considered stormwater. Stormwater in an urban environment may also be referred to as "urban stormwater runoff". Increased development across the Bay watershed has made urban stormwater runoff the fastest growing source sector contributing pollution to the Bay and its rivers, adding to the contributions from other source sectors to impact water quality.
Runoff from urban and agricultural areas (non-point source) may contain nutrients and chemicals. Wastewater and industrial processes (point source) also contribute nutrients. Agricultural operations and construction sites contribute excess sediment and associated nutrients through excelerated erosion. Excessive nutrients stimulate the growth of algae (called algal blooms) and pollute the Bay. The death and decomposition of algae reduces the quantity of available dissolved oxygen, resulting in fish kills and decreased productivity for Bay fisheries. Suspended
sediments impact submerged aquatic vegetation. The City of Alexandria has adopted an Environmental Management Ordinance to help protect the Chesapeake Bay from pollution and urban runoff.
Water Quality Management Supplement and Eco-City Alexandria Action Plan 2030
On January 13, 2001, the City Council adopted the Water Quality Management Supplement to the Master Plan, thus fulfilling the phase II requirements of the Chesapeake Bay Program and completing a process that began in late 1996. The Northern Virginia Region Commission (NVRC), in close collaboration with Alexandria’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, prepared the document. On March 19, 2001, the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board “determined that the amendments made to the City of Alexandria’s Comprehensive Plan have made its Phase II program consistent” with the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act. The City has implemented all actions consistent with Phase III activities and awaits the December 2012 final review from DEQ for determination of compliance. We continue to provide annual data to DEQR that demonstrates compliance through the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Annual Assessment of Activity
The Water Quality management Supplement emphasizes Alexandria’s water and habitat resources; it focuses on water quality impacts and directs the City, through specific initiatives, to preserve our existing resources and reclaim and better manage our watersheds. As proof of the City’s initial commitment, the City Council earmarked money for FY 2002, continuing through FY 2006, for environmental restoration. The City’s first-ever of its kind Eco-City Action Plan contains numerous targets and goals related to protecting and enhancing water quality, while the City’s Stormwater Program (mandated by the Clean Water Act and Virginia Administrative Code) seeks to control the discharge of pollutants by managing urban stormwater runoff.