How We Work

Rural Solutions


Clean Water Goals

We're working with partners on the Eastern Shore to achieve clean water goals and improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay

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Rural Solutions

Roadside ditch retrofits are now helping Talbot County meets its stormwater management goals.

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Clean water is essential to our livelihoods, to healthy streams and rivers, and to the Chesapeake Bay. Restoring a healthy bay means engaging with Maryland’s largest industry, agriculture, to keep nutrients on farms and out of our waters.

Picture a Chesapeake Bay teeming with fish and wildlife, while clean water flows from surrounding lands to feed this thriving natural system. To achieve our vision, The Nature Conservancy recognizes the benefit of partnering with farmers to secure clean water and a sustainable agricultural economy.

That's why The Nature Conservancy and The Delaware Maryland Agribusiness Association joined forces to convene the Delmarva Conservation Partnership. This unique public-private collaboration brings together over 30 groups - including conservation organizations, agribusiness, government agencies, and the scientific community - to advance nutrient management practices such as precision application of fertilizers, and to strategically protect and restore wetlands to enhance habitat and filter water making its way to the bay.

With initial funding provided through a $10M partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Delmarva Conservation Partnership committed to achieving the following 5-year goals:

  • Improve nutrient management practices on 37,000 acres of farmland
  • Protect 1,500 acres of natural filters including wetlands and buffers
  • Eliminate 300,000 pounds of nitrogen delivered to local waterways each year
  • Eliminate 10,000 pounds of phosphorus delivered to local waterways each year
  • Eliminate 20,000 pounds of sediment delivered to local waterways each year

To maximize our outreach to the agricultural community, last year we collaborated with the Delaware Maryland Agribusiness Association and formed the Chesapeake 4R Alliance, which includes agribusiness representatives, state and federal agencies, research institutions, and conservation organizations.

Through the alliance, we provide farmers with tools and techniques to apply the right nutrient sources, in the right place, at the right time and at the right rate (the 4Rs). Over the past year, we reached more than 2,500 Delmarva Peninsula farmers with information about conservation options. To date, more than 8,000 acres of cropland have been enrolled in conservation programs that will reduce excess nutrients by more than 40,000 pounds.

At the edges of fields, we worked with Talbot County to demonstrate how managing roadside ditches can inexpensively treat runoff from roads and adjacent farm fields. These projects were designed to allow continued drainage, while also filtering the water before it flows downstream to local rivers.

And along the Pocomoke River, we are restoring thousands of acres of habitat by cutting multiple breaches through a 1950s-era earthen berm constructed when the river was channelized. Now, instead of rapidly flushing sediment and pollutants downstream to the Chesapeake Bay, rain and river water can flow into these adjacent wetlands, cleaning the water, restoring forest health, and reducing flood risks to downstream communities.

“Our efforts for clean water on Delmarva are paying off,” says Mark Bryer, who directs our Chesapeake Bay Program. “Now we have an extraordinary opportunity to leverage all the lessons learned and expand results across Delmarva and throughout the Chesapeake watershed.” 


Download the Maryland/DC Delmarva Conservation Partnership Fact Sheet (pdf)

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