As Pennsylvania streams go, Conewago Creek in Dauphin, Lebanon and Lancaster counties is really nothing special. But remember the name, because it could hold the key to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

Draining a rural, agriculture-dominated watershed of about 53 square miles and providing a water supply for the Elizabethtown area, the Conewago empties into the Susquehanna River near Three Mile Island at Falmouth. It's a pretty little stream in places, but much of it has been declared "impaired" by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

In other words, it is too polluted to sustain the kind of fish and other aquatic life that it could sustain if it were a healthy stream. Assessments have identified sediment and nutrients from runoff as the major cause of impairment. And because of that, it is the perfect laboratory for an experiment to see if non-point source pollution can be controlled and largely eliminated.

Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, collaborating with a local watershed group, county conservation districts, USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service, municipalities, landowners and others recently launched a demonstration project in the Conewago watershed that is being watched closely by protectors of the Bay.