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Nutrient and suspended-sediment concentrations, trends, loads, and yields from the nontidal part of the Susquehanna, Potomac, Patuxent, and Choptank rivers, 1985-96

Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4177

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Abstract

The Chesapeake Bay River-Input Monitoring Program was established to characterize the water quality of four major rivers in Maryland, and to quantify the load and the long-term trends in concentrations of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and suspended sediment transported from the nontidal part of each river to the Chesapeake Bay. As part of the River-Input Monitoring Program, nutrient and suspended-sediment data and streamflow data were collected from 1985 through 1996 at the Susquehanna, Potomac, Patuxent, and Choptank Rivers above the points of tidal influence. The data were used to determine the effectiveness of strategies aimed at reducing nutrients entering Chesapeake Bay from its tributaries. Of the four rivers studied, the Patuxent River had the highest median concentrations of total nitrogen (2.6 milligrams per liter), total phosphorus (0.17 milligrams per liter), and suspended sediment (45 milligrams per liter) during the 12-year period. From 1985?96, flow-adjusted concentrations of total nitrogen decreased in all but the Potomac River, flow-adjusted concentrations of total phosphorus decreased in all four rivers, and flow-adjusted concentrations of suspended sediment decreased in all but the Susquehanna River. The rivers that contributed the greatest amount of streamflow to Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna and Potomac, also contributed the greatest nutrient loads and suspended-sediment loads to the Bay. The Susquehanna River transported the highest average-annual loads of total phosphorus (4.7 million pounds per year) and total nitrogen (146 million pounds per year), while the Potomac River transported the highest average-annual load of suspended sediment (4.1 billion pounds per year) to the Bay. Annual loads and annual mean streamflow were normalized by basin drainage area to account for some of the hydrologic differences among the river basins. An increase in precipitation from south to north is still apparent, however, when comparing the water yields among river basins. The Susquehanna River Basin had the highest median annual water yield during the study period; the other three basins all had similar water yields. The Susquehanna River and the Patuxent River had the highest median annual yields of nitrogen during the study period. The Patuxent River also had the highest median annual yield of total phosphorus during the study period, while the Potomac River had the highest median yield of suspended sediment. Annual yields of total phosphorus and suspended sediment from the Susquehanna and the Choptank River Basins are lower than those from the Potomac and Patuxent River Basins. These relatively small yields from the Susquehanna River may be due to the location of the sampling station below Conowingo Dam. A series of three dams upstream trap a large percentage of sediment and total phosphorus carried by the Susquehanna River to Chesapeake Bay.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Nutrient and suspended-sediment concentrations, trends, loads, and yields from the nontidal part of the Susquehanna, Potomac, Patuxent, and Choptank rivers, 1985-96
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
98-4177
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1999
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
Description:
v, 39 p. :ill., maps (some col.) ;28 cm.