Having been born and raised in this area, one of my cherished family memories is fishing and crabbing off a Hampton, VA, pier with my dad.

We would enjoy the warmth of the summer day and the majestic view as we fished for spot and caught crabs to take home for dinner. It was a favorite activity of mine; it brought my family close to nature and helped us appreciate the bounty that the Chesapeake provides. Thanks to the efforts of so many people across the watershed, the Bay is a regional treasure that I now get to share with my children.

As the chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Chesapeake Bay and Water Resources Policy Committee, I experience firsthand the vital role that local governments and water utilities play in improving and protecting the many valuable and beautiful Bay resources that we all enjoy.

COG’s 22 local governments, along with our local water utilities, have worked for decades to reduce pollutants entering the Bay and improve its water quality. And, our efforts are making a difference.

One of our region’s greatest success stories in the Bay restoration effort is implementing extensive nutrient — phosphorus and nitrogen — controls at wastewater treatment plants. These efforts have resulted in tremendous reductions of both nutrients. The phosphorus reductions we implemented in the mid-1980s at our metropolitan DC plants were originally aimed at improving water quality in the Potomac River, but have helped the Chesapeake as well.

Our wastewater treatment plants continue to operate at limit-of-technology levels and are ahead of schedule in implementing advanced levels of nitrogen control technologies well before the 2025 Bay Agreement deadline.

All of these efforts by the wastewater sector have resulted in significant reductions in nutrients flowing into the Bay and documented water quality improvements in the Potomac River and its embayments — all of which also helps the Bay.

These award-winning wastewater plants continue to protect human health and restore local water quality, all the while meeting very strict permit requirements, operating state-of-the-art facilities, planning for future growth and finding new and innovative ways to become more sustainable. This work includes cutting-edge technologies that will have Baywide and national importance. All of those efforts prove that with proper funding and leadership we can make a difference; and we should all be proud of what we have accomplished.

Metropolitan DC is also focused on reducing nonpoint source pollution flowing into the Bay. Our local governments have to meet some of the strictest requirements for controlling stormwater pollution.

Additionally, our Anacostia watershed localities have one of only three trash total maximum daily loads in the country, thus reducing yet another form of pollution in our region’s waters. As a result, our localities are implementing some of the most innovative techniques and best management practices in the Bay watershed and the country. These efforts are well under way and will further help our region achieve our water quality goals.

We also must work with our citizens and businesses to help them implement best practices to help clean up the Bay. From installing green roofs, to building and maintaining rain gardens, bioswales and other green infrastructure, to using asphalt sealer free of coal tar, to recycling and disposing of trash properly, we all have a role to play.

We have accomplished a lot over the last few decades, but we know that there is still a lot of work left to be done — and that it won’t be easy. We must continue to work hard and innovate to get the rest of the job done.

With Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week upon us, I’d like to recognize the contribution of all the local governments and water utilities across the watershed — both the leaders and the staff that operate and implement these facilities and programs — for all of their “on the ground” work in protecting the Bay, water quality and public health.

We all need to recognize the importance of this work to our quality of life and economic well-being, to be proud that we are making a difference, and to continue to say with a clear voice that “water matters.”