The world’s brightest and most talented scientists, researchers, policymakers and data experts have always been found in the Chesapeake Bay region, contributing to the tools and data that drive the restoration of our watershed. In fact, just five years before the first Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement was signed in 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Hydraulic Model went into operation—the largest model of an estuary in the entire world at the time. So, it’s no surprise that for the past 40 years, the Chesapeake Bay Program has continued to lead in the development of cutting-edge tools designed to help reduce pollution, visualize land use and estimate cost savings. The below tools are available for the public to use and are free!
Chesapeake Bay Assessment Scenario Tool (CAST)
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model incorporates information about land use, fertilizer applications, wastewater plant discharges, septic systems, air pollution, farm animal populations, weather and other factors to estimate the amount of pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay from its surrounding watershed. CAST is the web-based version of the Watershed Model that allows users to specify a particular geographic area and select best management practices to see which would be the most cost-effective, while reducing the greatest amount of pollution. In addition to the Watershed Model, the Bay Program maintains a robust suite of modeling tools.
Chesapeake Bay Program Land Use/Land Cover Data Project
Updated in spring 2022, the Very High-Resolution Land Cover and Land Use Data covers an area of 99,000 square miles, encompassing 206 counties that intersect or are adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These data can map the land and water at a resolution of one-meter-by-one-meter, providing more precise information about our watershed. Land cover data refers to how much of the landscape is covered by farmland, forests, wetlands, impervious surfaces, and other land and water types. Land use data describes how people use the land—for example, for farming, industry or residential. This tool helps us to understand how our watershed is transforming, as it tracks how lands are transitioning into developed areas or regions for agricultural production. The land change tool can help guide decisions and actions related to land management goals, including monitoring changes in tree canopy and mapping critical wildlife habitat, ecologically sensitive lands and areas where environmental restoration can provide the most benefit.
Accelerated Conservation and Restoration Portal
In 2022, the Chesapeake Bay Program unveiled the Accelerated Conservation and Restoration Portal, which organizes several data sets and other science-based information to help environmental managers and planners find the best areas in the watershed in which to target restoration activities. As the partnership works to meet the goals and outcomes of the current Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, this portal will help you identify places where you can take restoration action to help accelerate progress on multiple outcomes at the same time.
Chesapeake Bay Watershed Data Dashboard
There is no shortage of scientific and technical data at the Chesapeake Bay Program. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Data Dashboard was born out of the desire to create a one-stop shop to help environmental managers and planners figure out the best way to use all the scientific and technical data and information developed by Chesapeake Bay Program partners. The Dashboard currently contains six main sections to help with restoration and conservation planning.
- Rivers and Streams: View information on the current amount of nutrient and sediment pollution in your local waterways, check out trends to see if these conditions are improving, declining or staying the same, and explore how nutrients and sediment are entering the Bay from the entire watershed.
- Tidal Waters: Check out fact sheets showing the acreage and density of underwater grasses for different regions of the Bay over time, view data that monitors dissolved oxygen, temperature and nutrient concentrations in the Bay, and see where wastewater treatment plants discharge.
- Targeting Restoration: Learn where nutrients and sediment that enter your local waters are coming from, and understand how the geography of your area impacts how pollution and water flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
- Management Practices: Identify the best areas in which to install riparian forest buffers throughout the watershed, and check out the status of best management practices by county and learn how effective they are in reducing pollution.
- Land Policy and Conservation: Take a look at how the land throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed is being used and explore options for smart growth and land conservation.
- Prioritizing Other Benefits: Access a case study database to see how others throughout the watershed are successfully installing best management practices that improve their community and provide environmental benefits.
Chesapeake Healthy Watershed Assessment
This GIS tool uses quantitative indicators related to habitat, water quality, and biological and geographical conditions of the land to assess current, and track future, conditions of watersheds across the Chesapeake Bay region. Federal, state and local managers can use the Chesapeake Healthy Watershed Assessment to identify areas that may be in danger of degrading, and take the appropriate measures to ensure their local waters and watersheds remain healthy. The tool allows you to download data, filter that data by region or interest, add your own data to the viewer, bookmark locations for easy navigation and create a watershed health report with a summary of all metrics.
Do you currently use any of these tools? Let us know in the comments how they have helped you!