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The Chesapeake Bay Watershed

What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land that drains to a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water. Watersheds are sometimes called “basins” or “drainage basins.”

We all live in a watershed. Some watersheds, like that of your local stream or creek, are small. Others, like the Chesapeake Bay watershed, are very large.

What is the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

The Chesapeake Bay watershed stretches across more than 64,000 square miles. It encompasses parts of six states – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – and the entire District of Columbia. More than 17 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay’s land-to-water ratio (14:1) is the largest of any coastal water body in the world. This is why our actions on the land have such a big impact on the Bay’s health.

What are the major rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

The Susquehanna, Potomac, Rappahannock, York and James rivers are the five largest rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Altogether, more than 100,000 streams, creeks and rivers (called tributaries) thread through the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Each one of us lives within a few miles of one of these local waterways, which are like pipelines from our communities to the Bay.

Each of the streams, creeks and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has its own watershed. These are sometimes called “sub-watersheds,” “small watersheds” or “local watersheds.”

What watershed do I live in?

Enter your zip code into the Surf Your Watershed widget below to learn about the watershed(s) you live in!

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