Gov. Ralph Northam has directed state agencies and higher education institutions to take steps to significantly reduce pollution that runs off into the Chesapeake Bay.

The order, signed on Thursday, seeks to cut 122,000 pounds of nitrogen and 10,100 pounds of phosphorus flows into the bay.

Both nutrients have been targets in long-standing federal and state clean-up efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus fuel algae blooms that suck up oxygen from the water, suffocating sea life.

“If we make reducing pollution part of everyday business in Virginia, we will ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from healthy rivers and a cleaner Bay,” Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler said in a press release.

State clean-up efforts already have called on local governments, wastewater treatment plants, homeowners and farms to reduce nutrient pollution into the bay.

The new State Lands Improvement Watershed Plan mandates that state agencies and higher education institutions do the same. It will apply to more than 400,000 acres of state-owned land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Phosphorus and nitrogen often flow into the bay as stormwater runoff.

Recommended actions to meet the new pollution reduction targets include replacing lawns and turf with native grasses and vegetation that better absorb runoff. Restoring wetlands and forest buffers will also help filter nutrients and other pollutants from runoff.

The directive drew praise from environmental advocates. 

“Governor Northam’s plan for reducing polluted runoff from state lands is a reminder that restoring the Chesapeake Bay depends on efforts by everyone in the watershed, including individuals, business and even the state government,” said Peggy Sanner, the Virginia executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Northam’s order comes as Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York work to meet goals as part of the Clean Water Blueprint, which aims to ensure major pollution productions around the watershed by 2025.