Ver-i-fi-ca-tion: noun
the process of establishing the truth, accuracy, or validity of something. “the verification of official documents” synonyms: confirmation, substantiation, proof, corroboration, support, attestation, validation, authentication, endorsement

In the context of restoring the Chesapeake Bay watershed, “verification” is a systematic process for determining with a high degree of confidence that pollution control measures (best management practices) implemented to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution are working effectively over time. Verification is an essential building block to restoration, critical to ensuring our efforts are achieving water quality improvements in the Bay and local streams. Without it, we won’t know if these practices are working as they were designed to.

The Chesapeake Bay Program partnership has approved nearly 200 BMPs. About three-quarters of these are agricultural or nonpoint source BMPs. These BMPs must be maintained to function effectively, including protection from or restoration after severe weather events. This vulnerability has been identified by the partnership’s Citizens Advisory Committee, the National Academy of Sciences, the president’s Executive Order and other reviews. They have called on the Bay Program to improve the transparency and scientific rigor of our efforts to verify the implementation of nutrient and sediment pollutant reducing technologies, treatment techniques and practices.

Verification of BMPs is also fundamental to ensuring public confidence in the Bay Program partnership’s accounting for BMP implementation. In addition, the Bay Program partnership’s models and other support tools that are used in shared decision-making and as a baseline for defining progress depend on the accurate reporting of BMPs to estimate pollution loads. To effectively analyze the trends observed through water-quality monitoring, Bay Program partners must have assurance that reported practices are actually being implemented, are functioning effectively over time and are reducing pollutant loads. Local leaders need the same level of assurance to make effective decisions on investing resources to benefit local streams and rivers, as well as the Bay.

We believe this increased transparency and scientific rigor will earn greater confidence from the partners and the public at large that we are on the right track, and that the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, the Bay’s clean water blueprint, enacted through the jurisdictions’ watershed implementation plans, will achieve our water quality goals. Landowners, municipalities and facility managers will be able to confidently take the actions necessary to protect and enhance their communities

To guide our process, five principles were adopted, and are called the CBP BMP Verification Principles. Some of the existing local, state and federal tracking and reporting programs have strong verification programs in place. But the partnership recognizes that none of our seven jurisdictions’ existing programs extend across all pollution source sectors and habitats or fully achieves all five principles. The National Academy of Science’s evaluation of the partnership’s existing practice accountability systems made that very clear. The task before us is to ensure each jurisdiction’s comprehensive verification program achieves the adopted principles.

Verification Principles

The Chesapeake Bay Program partnership has established a BMP Verification Review Panel to examine and evaluate the degree to which a jurisdiction’s program meets the partnership’s parameters. This review includes an examination of existing BMP measurements, accounting and inspection systems as well as any proposed improvements. The partnership will build from existing practice tracking and reporting systems and work toward achieving or maintaining these principles.

  •  Principle 1 - Practice Reporting: Verification is required for practices, treatment techniques and technologies reported for nitrogen, phosphorus,and/or sediment pollutant load reduction credit.

    Verification protocols may reflect differing tools and timelines for measurement, as appropriate, for a specific BMP. For example, while a municipal stormwater permit may establish periodic inspections for a regulatory BMP, a statistical sampling may best define measurement for non-cost-shared structural, annual and/or management BMPs.

    Verification protocols will ensure that under normal operating conditions, structural practices are properly designed, installed and functionally maintained to ensure they are achieving the expected nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollutant load reductions reviewed and approved by the Bay Program partnership. Practices, including annual practices, must also meet the partnership’s implementation and management definitions while remaining consistent with or functionally equivalent to established practice definitions and/or standards. The protocols will also ensure practices are not double-counted and are functional at the time of seeking credit and have not been removed or damaged.

    Any practice, treatment technique and technology approved by the Bay Program that is properly tracked, verified and reported will be incorporated into the partnership’s models and credited in the accounting of progress toward the jurisdictions’ milestones and in the interpretation of observed trends in monitoring data.
  • Principle 2 - Scientific Rigor: Verification of practices assures effective implementation through scientifically rigorous and defensible, professionally established and accepted sampling, inspection and certification protocols regardless of funding source, source sector or jurisdiction. A method and schedule for confirmations to account for implementation progress over time will help ensure scientific rigor. Verification may allow for varying methods of data collection that balance scientific rigor with cost-effectiveness and the significance of, or priority placed on, the practice in achieving pollution reduction.
  • Principle 3 - Public Confidence: Verification protocols incorporate transparency in both the processes of verification and tracking and reporting of the underlying data. Levels of transparency will vary depending upon specific source sector, acknowledgement of existing legal limitations and the need to respect individual confidentiality to ensure access to non-cost shared practice data.
  • Principle 4 - Adaptive Management: Advancements in practice reporting and scientific rigor, as described earlier, are integral to assuring desired long-term outcomes while reducing the uncertainty found in natural systems and human behaviors. Verification protocols will recognize existing funding resources and allow for reasonable levels of flexibility in the allocation or targeting of those funds. Funding shortfalls and process improvements will be identified and acted upon when feasible.
  • Principle 5 - Sector Equity: Each jurisdiction’s program should strive to achieve equity in the measurement of functionality and effectiveness of the implemented BMPs among and across the source sectors.

    The importance of verification cannot be overstated; it is absolutely essential to the success of our restoration efforts. We have to get this right.