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Chesapeake Bay News


Question of the Week: How do vehicles affect water pollution?

Welcome to this week’s installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week we'll take a question submitted through the Chesapeake Bay Program website and answer it here for all to read.

This week’s question comes from Roshni, who asked, “How does water become polluted when automobiles are used for transportation?”

The most important thing to understand is that almost everything we do as residents of the Bay watershed has an effect on the Chesapeake in the long run. With the movement of people from city centers to more suburban areas, we have had to rely more on traveling by car, which has led to the creation of more hardened “impervious” surfaces such as highways and parking lots.

Transportation and the roads, parking lots and driveways that facilitate it account for 55 to 75 percent of all paving in cities and towns. These lands used to be forested, and when they are paved over, there are fewer habitats for wildlife and fewer filters for Bay-bound pollution. Transportation infrastructure has also caused the land across the Bay watershed to become more fragmented over the past few decades, making it even harder for animals to find habitat or complete their migration routes. (Learn more about forest fragmentation.)

The act of driving vehicles also emits pollution into our air. The pollution from these emissions eventually falls back to the earth and is transported by runoff and groundwater into streams and rivers.

Stormwater runoff is a massive problem due to the ever-increasing amount of paved surfaces in the Bay watershed. Instead of rainwater being filtered and absorbed into the ground, it simply runs off hardened areas into nearby streams and rivers, eventually carrying the pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, stormwater runoff is the fastest growing pollutant to the Bay.

Remember, everything we do affects the Chesapeake Bay, beginning with your local creek or stream. But every little change helps! So help the Bay by starting a carpool with your coworkers or using public transportation to lessen the number of cars on the road and the amount of pollution being released into the air during your commute.

Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Please send it to us through our web comment form. Your question might be chosen for our next BayBlog Question of the Week!


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