Rapid population increases, agriculture, and industrial practices have been identified as important sources of excessive nutrients and sediments in the Delaware Inland Bays watershed. The amount and effect of excessive nutrients and sediments in the Inland Bays watershed have been well documented by the Delaware Geological Survey, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program, the Delaware Center for Inland Bays, the University of Delaware, and other agencies. This documentation and data previously were used to develop a hydrologic and water-quality model of the Delaware Inland Bays watershed to simulate nutrients and sediment concentrations and loads, and to calibrate the model by comparing concentrations and streamflow data at six stations in the watershed over a limited period of time (October 1998 through April 2000). Although the model predictions of nutrient and sediment concentrations for the calibrated segments were fairly accurate, the predictions for the 28 ungaged segments located near tidal areas, where stream data were not available, were above the range of values measured in the area.
The cooperative study established in 2000 by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Delaware Geological Survey, and the U.S. Geological Survey was extended to evaluate the model predictions in ungaged segments and to ensure that the model, developed as a planning and management tool, could accurately predict nutrient and sediment concentrations within the measured range of values in the area. The evaluation of the predictions was limited to the period of calibration (1999) of the 2003 model.
To develop estimates on ungaged watersheds, parameter values from calibrated segments are transferred to the ungaged segments; however, accurate predictions are unlikely where parameter transference is subject to error. The unexpected nutrient and sediment concentrations simulated with the 2003 model were likely the result of inappropriate criteria for the transference of parameter values. From a model-simulation perspective, it is a common practice to transfer parameter values based on the similarity of soils or the similarity of land-use proportions between segments. For the Inland Bays model, the similarity of soils between segments was used as the basis to transfer parameter values. An alternative approach, which is documented in this report, is based on the similarity of the spatial distribution of the land use between segments and the similarity of land-use proportions, as these can be important factors for the transference of parameter values in lumped models. Previous work determined that the difference in the variation of runoff due to various spatial distributions of land use within a watershed can cause substantialloss of accuracy in the model predictions.
The incorporation of the spatial distribution of land use to transfer parameter values from calibrated to uncalibrated segments provided more consistent and rational predictions of flow, especially during the summer, and consequently, predictions of lower nutrient concentrations during the same period. For the segments where the similarity of spatial distribution of land use was not clearly established with a calibrated segment, the similarity of the location of the most impervious areas was also used as a criterion for the transference of parameter values.
The model predictions from the 28 ungaged segments were verified through comparison with measured in-stream concentrations from local and nearby streams provided by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Model results indicated that the predicted edge-of-stream total suspended solids loads in the Inland Bays watershed were low in comparison to loads reported for the Eastern Shore of Maryland from the Chesapeake Bay watershed model. The flatness of the ter
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Simulation of nutrient and sediment concentrations and loads in the Delaware inland bays watershed: Extension of the hydrologic and water-quality model to ungaged segments
Scientific Investigations Report
Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia Water Science Center