With its strong economy, diverse communities and rich natural and historic resources, it’s no wonder that more than 17 million people call the Chesapeake Bay watershed home. But the region’s rapid rate of population growth has raised concern over whether the watershed can continue to sustain the plants, animals and people that live here. Between 1985 and 2012, population increased 30 percent, from 13.5 million people to 17.7 million people. Experts believe this number will continue to rise, reaching 20 million by 2030. Each person that lives in this region affects the Bay: we consume natural resources; we pollute the air, land and water; and we alter the landscape to fit our needs. The health of our waterways, therefore, is directly tied to population growth.

When there is an increase in population, more land is cleared for agriculture and development. The construction of roads, parking lots, lawns and golf courses mean a heightened number of impervious surfaces that block rainfall from soaking into the ground. This rainfall is pushed into storm drains, rivers and streams, picking up nutrients, sediment and other pollutants along the way. Polluted stormwater, also known as stormwater runoff, is the fastest growing source of pollution into the Bay.

For Bay restoration to be a success, we all must do our part. Our everyday actions can have a big impact on the Bay. By making simple changes in our lives, each one of us can take part in restoring the watershed for future generations to enjoy.

To lower the impacts of population growth, consider reducing stormwater runoff by installing a green roof or rain garden to capture and absorb rainfall; use porous surfaces like gravel or pavers in place of asphalt or concrete; and redirect home downspouts onto grass or gravel rather than paved driveways or sidewalks.