The freshwater‐inflow‐to‐estuaries issue




Over 55% of the United States commercial fish and shellfish catch is dependent upon estuaries for spawning and nursery functions, but estuaries cannot function ecologically without an adequate supply, seasonal inflow, and quality of freshwater from inland rivers. Such inland river development projects as constructing reservoirs, leveeing rivers, dredging navigation channels, and diverting water for agriculture, cities, and industry have drastically changed freshwater inflows to many estuaries on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. The problems on the Atlantic coast are primarily reduced water quality and increased rate of runoff although reductions in quantity appear to be developing. On the Gulf of Mexico decreases in freshwater inflow quantity have reduced estuarine production on the Florida and Texas coasts. On the highly productive Mississippi Delta, levee and navigation channel construction has diverted river inflow to the Gulf of Mexico rather than allowing overflow to the estuarine habitats; this has resulted in saltwater intrusion and marsh erosion. On the Pacific coast, inflow to the San Francisco Bay complex has been reduced by over 50%, resulting in drastic estuarine changes. Studies on freshwater inflow are underway in Chesapeake Bay, Louisiana, Texas, and the San Francisco Bay complex.

The freshwater‐inflow‐to‐estuary problem can be addressed by (1) considering the ecological effects of proposed inland water projects on estuarine production and communities; (2) developing nationwide criteria for evaluating the freshwater needs of estuaries; (3) refining methods for defining the economic and noneconomic benefit of freshwater inflow to estuaries; and (4) using existing laws and directives more effectively.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The freshwater‐inflow‐to‐estuaries issue
Series title Fisheries
DOI 10.1577/1548-8446(1981)006<0008:TFI>2.0.CO;2
Volume 6
Issue 5
Year Published 1981
Language English
Publisher American Fisheries Society
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 3 p.
First page 8
Last page 10
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