Lancaster Farming, Report: Chesapeake Bay Isn’t Improving as Expected
Farm-generated water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed isn’t decreasing as fast as authorities predicted, so new approaches may be needed, a new report says.
The region has only achieved “the mid-30% range” of its water quality goals, a rise of maybe 10 percentage points over four decades, the Chesapeake Bay Program said in a review released Tuesday.
The issue is not merely that farm-rich Pennsylvania was slow to commit the recommended funding to the bay cleanup, a concern bay groups have raised for years.
The report says conservation programs do not provide sufficient incentives to adopt practices with the largest pollution reduction potential.
Increasing livestock production has also produced a net growth in nutrients in the region. Ever more nutrients have been imported in the form of animal feed, but there has not been a corresponding uptick in nutrients being exported as manure, the document says.
In addition, ag conservation practices might not be as effective at reducing pollution as scientists thought.
The computer model that estimates pollution loads suggests the bay’s phosphorus goals are nearly met, but water monitoring stations have recorded little decline in phosphorus levels.
So the model isn't working, and it must be the farmers fault.
The reasons for this discrepancy could include incomplete data and a long lag time for cleanup actions to show results, the report says.
Speeding up progress is not just a matter of increasing funding for existing programs. New tactics are needed, such as a pay-for-performance program that could spur interest in highly effective practices, the report says.
To address nutrient surpluses, farmers could use technologies that reduce inputs and export manure from the bay watershed.
Hilary Harp Falk, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the report should be required reading for anyone involved in the bay cleanup.
“While additional investment is still needed, we must drastically change and accelerate our approach to reducing the pollution running off the land,” she said.
We've spent about $25 billion (with a "b"), and not made a substantial dent in the problem (although, to be fair, at least it didn't get worse).
If only we could get the people in Washington DC to stop eating food.