Yields and trends of nutrients and total suspended solids in nontidal areas of the Chesapeake Bay basin, 1985-96

Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4192




Excessive concentrations of nutrients and suspended solids in water adversely affect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. High levels of nutrients in the Bay result in algal blooms and suspended solids reduce water clarity, both of which decrease the amount of light reaching submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). The die off and decomposition of algae and SAV deplete oxygen supplies in the water. Low dissolved oxygen (DO) levels (less than 5.0 milligrams per liter for aquatic life, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1986) can lead to fish kills and stress other living resources in the Bay. In 1987, the Chesapeake Bay Agreement called for a 40-percent reduction in the amount of controllable nutrients reaching the Chesapeake Bay by the year 2000. This goal was based on results of computer simulations that predicted that periods of low DO would be reduced or eliminated if nutrient inputs to the Bay were reduced by that amount. In an effort to achieve that goal, nutrient-reduction strategies, including banning phosphate detergents, upgrading sewagetreatment plants, controlling runoff from agricultural and urban areas, and preserving forest and wetland areas (Zynjuk, 1995), were implemented in many areas of the basin to help reduce nutrient inputs to the Bay. In 1997, a basinwide reevaluation of the 40-percent reduction goal was initiated to determine if that goal is achievable and to identify and document any changes in water quality and living resources in response to nutrient-reduction strategies. In support of this reevaluation, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) designed a database and retrieved water-quality data from approximately 1,300 nontidal stream sites in the Chesapeake Bay Basin (Langland and others, 1995). At 84 of the 1,300 sites, where sufficient data were available, trends, yields, and annual loads of nutrients and suspended solids were estimated for 1985 through 1996. This report presents: (1) spatial distribution of available nutrient and suspended-solids data for the 84 sites, (2) yields of nutrients and total suspended solids, and (3) trends in concentrations of nutrients and total suspended solids. Results presented here are limited to analyses for total nitrogen (TN), nitrate nitrogen (NO3), total phosphorus (TP), and total suspended solids (TSS).

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Yields and trends of nutrients and total suspended solids in nontidal areas of the Chesapeake Bay basin, 1985-96
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Pennsylvania Water Science Center
7, [1] p. :col. maps ;28 cm. [PGS - 8 p.]