A new approach to the analysis of long-term surface water-quality data is proposed and implemented. The goal of this approach is to increase the amount of information that is extracted from the types of rich water-quality datasets that now exist. The method is formulated to allow for maximum flexibility in representations of the long-term trend, seasonal components, and discharge-related components of the behavior of the water-quality variable of interest. It is designed to provide internally consistent estimates of the actual history of concentrations and fluxes as well as histories that eliminate the influence of year-to-year variations in streamflow. The method employs the use of weighted regressions of concentrations on time, discharge, and season. Finally, the method is designed to be useful as a diagnostic tool regarding the kinds of changes that are taking place in the watershed related to point sources, groundwater sources, and surface-water nonpoint sources. The method is applied to datasets for the nine large tributaries of Chesapeake Bay from 1978 to 2008. The results show a wide range of patterns of change in total phosphorus and in dissolved nitrate plus nitrite. These results should prove useful in further examination of the causes of changes, or lack of changes, and may help inform decisions about future actions to reduce nutrient enrichment in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.