RESTON, Va. — A new USGS-led report indicates the greatest opportunities to decrease nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in the coming decades will be in agricultural and developed areas. This finding came after scientists synthesized a long-term perspective of the major sources of nitrogen change in the watershed since 1950 and evaluated possible future scenarios through 2050.
This report can help resource managers and policymakers as they work to improve the overall health of the bay, which has experienced degraded water quality and habitat loss due to excess sediment and nutrients such as nitrogen. The bay provides multiple environmental and societal benefits, including recreational and commercial fisheries valued at more than $20 billion annually.
Nitrogen to the Chesapeake Bay increased substantially from 1950 until the 1980s but varied afterward. Management controls of wastewater treatment and atmospheric deposition of nitrogen have decreased the amount of nitrogen going into the bay in recent decades, primarily due to advancements in technology to remove nitrogen from wastewater and the implementation of the Clean Air Act.
Management strategies being considered by state agencies for agricultural areas include decreasing fertilizer application, reducing animal waste (manure) on farms, prioritizing the locations for conservation practices and implementing new technology to decrease nitrogen. In developed areas, agencies are focusing on strategies to better manage nitrogen runoff into rivers and streams.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed extends across New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Agencies in these states are working to have all nutrient and sediment reductions practices in place by 2025 to eventually meet water quality standards in the bay.
Read a summary on the report at https://www.usgs.gov/centers/
Read the USGS-led report at https://doi.org/10.3133/
–United State Geological Survey