Loads of suspended sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen, biochemical oxygen demand, and dissolved silica discharged to the tidal Potomac River and Estuary during the !979-81 water years from three local nonpoint sources have been calculated. The loads in rain falling directly upon the tidal water surface and from overflows of the combined sewer system of the District of Columbia were determined from available information. Loads of materials in the streamflow from local watersheds draining directly to the tidal Potomac River and Estuary downstream from Chain Bridge in Washington, D.C., were calculated from samples of streamflow leaving five monitored watersheds.
Average annual yields of substances leaving three urban watersheds (Rock Creek and the Northwest and Northeast Branches of the Anacostia River) and the rural Saint Clements Creek watershed were calculated either by developing relationships between concentration and streamflow or by using the mean of measured concentrations. Yields calculated for the 1979-81 water years are up to 2.3 times period-of-record yields because of greater than average streamflow and stormflow during this 3-year period.
Period-of-record yields of suspended sediment from the three urban watersheds and the Saint Clements Creek watershed do not agree with yields reported by other studies. The yields from the urban watersheds are 17 to 51 percent of yields calculated using sediment-concentration data collected during the 1960-62 water years. Previous studies suggest that this decrease is at least partly due to the imposition of effective sediment controls at construction sites and to the construction of two multipurpose reservoirs. The yield calculated for the rural Saint Clements Creek watershed is at least twice the yields calculated for other rural watersheds, a result that may be due to most of the samples of this stream being taken during the summer of the 1981 water year, a very dry period.
Loads discharged from all local tributary watersheds to the tidal Potomac River and Estuary during the 1979-81 water years were calculated by applying to the unsampled watersheds the yields determined for the monitored watersheds. The
resulting loads are 2.7 million megagrams of suspended sedi- ment, 3,100 megagrams of phosphorus, 14,000 megagrams of nitrogen, 74,000 megagrams of ultimate biochemical oxygen demand, and 68,000 megagrams of dissolved silica. The value for the load of sediment is probably an overestimate because the sediment yield calculated for the Saint Clements Creek watershed does not appear to be representative of rural watersheds.
Summed, the loads discharged from all local nonpoint sources (local tributary watersheds, rainfall, and combined sewer overflows) to the tidal Potomac River and Estuary during the 1979-81 water years are 2.7 million megagrams of suspended sediment, 3,300 megagrams of phosphorus, 18,000 megagrams of nitrogen, 78,000 megagrams of ultimate biochemical oxygen demand, and 69,000 megagrams of dissolved silica. These loads accounted for 17 to 38 percent of the loads discharged by major sources during this period.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Loads of suspended sediment and nutrients from local nonpoint sources to the tidal Potomac River and Estuary, Maryland and Virginia, 1979-81 water years