Nutrient and sediment data collected by Federal and state agencies from 1972 through 1992 at 1,058 surface-water sites in nontidal parts of the Chesapeake Bay Basin were compiled into a large database. Adequate nutrient, sediment, and streamflow data were not available to compute annual loads for all sites because water-quality monitoring at many of the sites was either short term or noncontinuous or because stream-flow was not measured. Annual nutrient and sediment loads were calculated at a total of 127 sites. Annual loads of dissolved nitrate were calculated for 108 sites, but total nitrogen loads could be calculated for only 48 of these sites because ammonia plus organic nitrogen data were not available for many of these 108 sites. Annual loads of total phosphorus were calculated for 99 sites, and annual loads of suspended sediment were calculated for 33 sites. Loads could be calculated for only a very few sites in the Juniata River Basin (a tributary to the Susquehanna River), the York River Basin, the middle and lower reaches of the James River, and the nontidal parts of the eastern shore of the Bay.
Geographic Information System (GIS) spatial data sets of land use, physiographic province, rock type, and watershed delineation were compiled for the entire Chesapeake Bay Basin (approximately 64,000 square miles). The nutrient- and sediment-yield were evaluated with respect to land use, physiographic province, rock type, and hydrologic characteristics. During years that the mean streamflow was about equal to the long-term mean streamflow, the Susquehanna River contributed about 50 percent of the freshwater, 66 percent of the total nitrogen, and 40 percent of the total phosphorus transported by tributaries to the Bay. Nutrient and sediment data were available for less than 18 percent of the predominantly agricultural areas underlain by siliciclastic rock and for less than 35 percent of the predominantly agricultural areas underlain by either carbonate rock or unconsolidated rock. Nutrient and sediment data were available for about 91 percent of the predominantly forested areas underlain by siliciclastic rock. Spatial and temporal gaps in the water-quality data and GIs data sets limited some data analysis. Correlations of annual yields or nutrients and sediment with respect to land use, physiographic province, and rock type indicated (1) basins with larger percentages of agricultural land had larger nutrient and sediment yields, (2) basins with larger percentages of forest land had smaller nutrient and sediment loads, (3) the largest total nitrogen yields were from agricultural basins underlain by carbonate rock, (4) yields or nutrients from urban basins were substantially less than yields from agricultural basins, and (5) basins with small amounts of agricultural and urban land had relatively small nutrient and sediment yields.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Synthesis of nutrient and sediment data for watersheds within the Chesapaeake Bay drainage basin