Water Quality Restoration Funding Sources

Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund (BRF)

The BRF provides grants for projects that reduce nutrient and sediment loads to the Bay. The BRF is composed of two separate funds, the Septic Fund, and the Wastewater Fund. The Septic Fund pays for septic upgrades to Best Available Technology, and prioritizes these based on proximity to the Bay, which results in the most cost effective reductions per pound of nitrogen. The septic ranking scheme also prioritizes failing systems, which provides the important co-benefit of protecting public health. The Septic Fund also pays for cover crops, another cost-effective practice, through Maryland's Cover Crop Program​. It also is used as our State match for Section 319 Nonpoint Source (NPS) funding. 

The Wastewater Fund is used for wastewater treatment plants, and pays for sewer improvements to reduce overflows, improving climate resiliency of sewer systems, septic connections, and stormwater projects. Projects are rated and ranked based on which projects provide the most cost-effective nutrient reductions in dollars per pound. As opportunities for low-cost nutrient reductions are used up, per pound costs will increase; therefore, non-nutrient co-benefits such as public health benefit and sustainability are also factored in. 

Onsite Disposal Systems Grant (Bay Restoration Fund)

Maryland’s Bay Restoration Fund provides grants for homeowners and businesses to upgrade their septicsystem​s, or on-site disposal systems (OSDS), to the Best Available Technology (BAT) for reducing nitrogen pollution. The Bay Restoration Fund, administered by the Department of the Environment, was signed into law in 2004 to upgrade Maryland’s wastewater treatment plants and septic systems. The State has a Bay milestone goal of upgrading at least 3,000 septic units by 2011. Special priority goes to failing systems in the Critical Area, within 1,000 feet of tidal waters.​

Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund

Trust Fund 
The State of Maryland established the Trust Fund​ in November 2007 to provide a dedicated source of funding for the most effective projects to reduce nutrients and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The Department of Natural Resources administers the Trust Fund. A portion of revenue generated from motor fuel tax and rental car tax is allocated solely for NPS pollutant reduction through the Trust Fund. An estimated $50M per year may be available for on the ground activities related to nonpoint source implementation projects. Proposals for grants are evaluated using several criteria, including readiness and ability to proceed, cost effectiveness, co-benefits, and geographic targeted areas. 

Scientific Advisory Panel 
Trust Fund Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) members are scientists and technical experts appointed by the Governor. Through geographic targeting and financial oversight, the SAP maximizes reductions in pounds of nutrients and sediment per dollar spent. The role of the SAP includes: 
  • Annually provide recommendations on the use of funds of the Trust Fund for the following fiscal year 
  • Monitor the distribution of funds from the Trust Fund 
  • Review the categories of grants made in the previous year to assess nutrient loading reduction estimates, cost efficiencies, and the effectiveness of any innovative nonpoint source pollution reduction measure 
  • Review and suggest changes to the proposed annual work plan.

Advancing Stormwater Resiliency in Maryland - Targeted Funding Opportunities


Updating local stormwater and flood management programs will require budgeting for planning and project implementation. Funding is also necessary for comprehensive watershed studies, data collection, and tools to identify causes and actions to mitigate flooding. MDE will help local jurisdictions identify funding opportunities that may support efforts related to comprehensive planning, development of watershed studies and engineering analyses, and stormwater best management practices (BMP) for additional quantity management.

​MDE will compile funding resources related to flood management.​ The database contains more than 200 federal, state, and private foundation grants related to hazard mitigation, floodplain management, green infrastructure, improving water quality, and additional adjacent disciplines. It is searchable by key words. 

Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund

The Maryland Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund​ (WQRLF) provides below market interest rate loans and loan principal forgiveness (where applicable) to local governments and other eligible entities to finance water quality improvement projects. Since its 1987 inception through June 30, 2019, the WQRLF has provided approximately $2.73 billion in financing for water quality projects. The goal of the program is to achieve these improvements by reducing the amount of nutrients being discharged into the Chesapeake Bay. Projects eligible for funding include wastewater treatment plant improvements and upgrades, eliminating failing septic systems, combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows, nonpoint source projects such as urban stormwater control, and sewer system rehabilitation.

Clean Water Act Section 319 Funds

Maryland’s portion of federal 319 funds have been used to help build Maryland’s NPS Management Program, implement various NPS programs, and implement practices to reduce nonpoint source pollution. With an annual budget of about $2M/year, this program is relatively small in comparison to the much larger array of State nonpoint source management activities. In Maryland, the opportunity for 319 funding​ is offered to local and State entities including county and municipal agencies, Soil Conservation Districts, State agencies, and State institutions of higher learning.

A wide variety of NPS activities are eligible for funding:​
  • Implementation (in-the-ground projects resulting in measurable NPS pollution reduction) 
  • Protection (projects that prevent water quality degradation from nonpoint sources) 
  • Watershed assessment, priority planning, implementation progress tracking 
  • State NPS management program(s) 
  • Education/outreach (in association with other 319-funded NPS projects) 
  • Demonstration projects (showing the overall effectiveness of an adopted approach in solving a particular water quality problem) 
Eligible implementation projects may use Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as stream restoration, wetland creation or restoration, and riparian buffers. Before securing grant funds for an implementation project, however, the EPA must have accepted a watershed plan that encompasses the work area and identifies the work as a high priority. The watershed plan can be accepted in advance, or it can be developed during the grant project, with assistance provided by the Department of the Environment.

Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant (CBIG)

Section 117(e)(1)(A) of the Clean Water Act authorizes the EPA to award Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grants​ (CBIG) to Maryland and the other signatory jurisdictions of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The intent of the funding is to assist Maryland in achieving the goals of the Agreement by supporting the implementation of the Agreement’s management strategies. Particular focus is given to projects that address the Agreement’s Water Quality goal by reducing nonpoint source nutrient and sediment pollution; however, Maryland’s CBIG funds have also supported progress towards the Sustainable Fisheries, Vital Habitats, Toxic Contaminants, Healthy Watersheds, Stewardship, Land Conservation, Environmental Literacy, and Climate Resiliency goals.​

Chesapeake Bay Regulatory and Accountability Program (CBRAP)

CBRAP grants aid the seven jurisdictions in implementing and expanding their respective regulatory, accountability, assessment, compliance, and enforcement capabilities in support of reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads delivered to the Bay to meet the Bay TMDL. 

​These grants help each of the seven Bay jurisdictions to:
  • ​Develop/revise regulations/policies, and develop and implement WIPs and two-year milestones; 
  • Implement regulatory, tracking, verification, reporting, assessment, and/or monitoring commitments of the jurisdictions’ WIPs and/or two-year milestones or in response to EPA’s evaluation of these documents; 
  • Issue, reissue, and enforce permits and enforce regulations; 
  • Develop and implement verification programs following the CBP partnership’s established verification protocols and policies; 
  • Develop and implement nutrient and sediment credit trading and offset programs; 
  • Develop and implement technical assistance and guidance documents to support WIP and/or two-year milestone implementation; 
  • Provide technical and compliance assistance to landowners; and 
  • Provide compliance assistance to local governments and regulated entities.​
The Watershed Assistance Grant Program​ can assist in requesting funding from this grant.

Abandoned Mine Land Grant

The U.S. Department of the Interior provides annual grants to MDE to construct reclamation projects that reclaim disturbed lands and reduce water pollution from abandoned coal mines. Abandoned mines can pose a serious threat to water quality, especially in the form of highly acidic water, rich in metals. About 200 abandoned mine sites exist in Maryland, according to MDE’s Land Management Administration. The Abandoned Mine Land Grant is authorized in Title IV of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). 

Maryland receives an annual allocation of $3 million from the federal Office of Surface Mining to reclaim abandoned mines. The Department of the Environment uses this funding to pay contractors who carry out reclamation projects. Federal funding comes from the fees paid by active coal mine operations on each ton of coal mined.​ MDE's Abandoned Mine Lands and Acid Mine Drainage information can be found here​.

Chesapeake Bay Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant

This National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF) manages this EPA-funded program to expand the collective knowledge of the most innovative, sustainable, and cost-effective strategies that reduce excess nutrient loads in specific tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. To achieve this goal, the program awards competitive grants to projects that target and reflect the diverse conditions (e.g., urban, rural, suburban) and sources of nutrients (e.g., agricultural, stormwater, other non-point sources) that exist throughout the Chesapeake watershed. Collectively, these projects help the Chesapeake Bay Program meet its goals for restoring the health and resources of the Bay ecosystem. Priorities for funding include:
  • Field-scale demonstrations of innovative technologies, conservation practices and Best Management Practices (BMPs) that have potential to significantly reduce excess nutrient loads
  • Demonstrations, within targeted small watersheds, of the most effective and efficient strategies for implementing nutrient load reductions contained in state Tributary Strategies
  • Water quality trading demonstrations (including point source to non-point source) and other marketbased strategies to reduce nutrient loads to the Bay and its tributaries, and
  • Proposals that will demonstrate strategies that overcome barriers to adoption of the most effective and efficient BMPs; and conservation practices for reducing excess nutrient loads
Funding: Individual grants run from $200,000 to $1 million. Projects must include a 1:1 match with a non-federal partner. Primary funding for the Program is provided through a cooperative agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency.​​

Chesapeake Bay Trust

The Chesapeake Bay Trust​ is a nonprofit grant-making organization dedicated to improving the watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Coastal Bays, and Youghiogheny River. Created in 1985 by the Maryland General Assembly, the Trust’s goal is to increase stewardship through grant programs, special initiatives, and partnerships that support K-12 environmental education, on-the ground watershed restoration, community engagement, and the underlying science of these three realms. Through grants, the Trust engages hundreds of thousands of students and volunteers in projects that have a measurable impact on the natural resources of our region. Grantees include schools, local governments, community groups, faith-based groups, watershed organizations, and other not-for-profit entities. In 2019, over $11 million was invested in almost 400 projects through grants ranging from $250 to over $300,000.

Conservation Grants and Loans to Farmers

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) provides conservation grants and loans to help farmers offset the cost of installing best management practices on their farms to protect natural resources and comply with federal, state and local environmental requirements. 

Since 1985, the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost Share (MACS) program has provided publicly supported grant funds to assist tenant farmers and farm owners with the implementation costs of BMPs to control water quality problems on their property. BMP cost-share is up to 87.5% of eligible project costs. The amount of grant support provided also depends on the cost-effectiveness of the proposed BMP when compared to other alternatives for that site or other eligible funding caps. 

Between 1998 and 2018, the MACS program has awarded nearly $100 million in state funded grants to address water quality concerns on agricultural land in Maryland. The Maryland Department of Agriculture will be further evaluating the program to ensure full alignment with the agricultural sector’s Chesapeake Bay WIP goals. 

Another cost-share example is MDA’s Agriculture’s Manure Matching Service​, a nonregulatory statewide program that reduces the potential for excessive amounts of manure application on land and associated increased risk of NPS pollution. Farmers with excess animal manure are linked to recipients that may use the manure as a nutrient source or for alternative products and processes. The goal of the service is to reduce the potential impact from animal waste runoff to Maryland’s streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay by establishing a marketplace where farmers can sell their excess manure. 

Conservation Reserve Program and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)

The federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a voluntary program that compensates landowners who agree to adopt certain conservation practices to set aside farmland that meet program criteria. Participants enroll in contracts between 10-to-15-year duration and establish vegetative covers that reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance or create wildlife habitat on  environmentally sensitive cropland or, in some cases, on marginal pastureland. Nationally, the CRP protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion and is designed to safeguard the Nation’s natural resources. In Maryland, the CRP is usually bypassed for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which specifically addresses resource issues to improve the water quality of the  Chesapeake Bay and provides more attractive incentives. The USDA established CREP to improve water quality by filtering agricultural runoff and to enhance wildlife habitat. In 1997, Maryland was the first state approved to participate in CREP.

The CREP targets the most environmentally sensitive lands to address important resource protection issues, focusing on riparian grass and forest buffers, wetland restoration and protection of highly  erodible lands. Both CRP and CREP offer 10-to-15 year contracts with annual rental payments, as well as cost-share assistance for adopting conservation practices. In Maryland, two State programs  ​offer farmers increased incentives in addition to the traditional CRP competitive bid process: The Maryland Department of Agriculture Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program​ provides cost share for BMP installation and  ​$100/acre as an additional signing incentive, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers purchase agreements for conservation easements. 

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

The federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)​ is a voluntary conservation program that provides financial and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to address soil, water, air and related natural resource management issues on their land. These programs address reductions in nonpoint source pollution and the conservation of water resources. It is the responsibility of the State Conservationist, with advice of a technical committee, to identify which specific conservation practices are eligible. Examples of practices include nutrient management, manure management, integrated pest management, irrigation water management and wildlife habitat enhancement. Owners of land in agricultural production, or persons who are engaged in livestock or agricultural production on eligible land, may participate. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, private non-industrial forestland, and other farm or ranch lands. Recently, forest management and conservation practices related to organic production have been given stronger emphasis in the Program. A certain amount of EQIP funding is reserved for forest improvement activities, especially those that restore forests to healthy and productive conditions or targets invasive species for removal.​

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the US Dept. of Agriculture to create the RCPP​. The RCPP has about $400 million is available for financial assistance during the first year and about $1.2 billion over five years that is provided thru three funding pools:
  • Critical Conservation Areas will receive 35% of available funding. The Chesapeake Bay drainage is one of eight eligible areas. This program, replaces the former Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, will be a major conduit for federal funding assistance for agricultural conservation and NPS management. 
  • Regional or multi-state projects will receive 40% of available funding. 
  • State-level projects will receive 25% of available funding. 
​RCPP assistance will be delivered in accordance with rules of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP), and in certain areas, the Watershed Operations and Flood Prevention Program.​
Contact Information ​
Please direct questions or comments concerning Maryland's TMDL Program to mde.tmdlcoordinator@maryland.gov or call (410) 537-3818.​​

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