While cleanup efforts remain far short of the 2010 goals, actions taken to date have not only reduced nutrient loads entering the Bay, they have offset the impacts of a population that has grown from 13 million people to 16 million since 1985.
If no nutrient reduction efforts had taken place, according to Bay Program estimates, the amount of nitrogen entering the Bay would be increasing—not decreasing—and would hit 364 million pounds a year by 2010.
The phosphorus increase would be even more dramatic: rising from 26.5 million pounds to 41.3 million pounds by the end of the decade.
The most dramatic increases would be in point source discharges, mostly from wastewater treatment plants. If no actions were being taken, nitrogen discharges would increase from 87.7 million pounds in 1985, to 113 million pounds in 2010. Instead, those discharges are expected to total less than 30 million pounds by the end of the decade.
For phosphorus, point source discharges would have grown from 9.2 million pounds in 1985 to 22 million pounds in 2010—an increase of nearly 150 percent. Instead, phosphorus discharges are expected to be less than 3 million pounds.
Nitrogen and phosphorus from various land uses, especially agriculture, would grow sharply as well.
The result of doing nothing would be a Bay with significantly worsened water quality: more algae blooms, less underwater grass and lowered dissolved oxygen levels.