Nutrients are chemicals that plants and animals need to grow and survive. When too many nutrients make their way into local rivers, streams and the Bay, they can create conditions that are harmful for blue crabs, bay grasses and other underwater life. Excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, two types of nutrients, are the main cause of the Bay's poor health.
Virtually all people and industries in the Bay's seven-jurisdiction watershed — and even some beyond the watershed — contribute nutrients to the Bay and its tributaries. In general, excess nutrients reach the Bay from three major sources: specific, identifiable entry pipes; runoff from the land; and air pollution.
Nutrients also come from a number of natural sources, including soil, plant material, wild animal waste and the atmosphere.
Nutrients have always been a part of the Bay ecosystem, but not at the excessive levels found today. Prior to significant human activity in the region, most nutrients were absorbed or held in place by natural forest and wetland vegetation. As forests and wetlands were replaced by farms, cities and suburbs to accommodate a growing population, nutrient pollution to the Bay has vastly increased.
Excess nutrients fuel the growth of dense algae blooms that:
Research shows groundwater flow can lengthen the time it takes for a conservation practice to affect a waterway.
Scientists attribute the dead zone’s volume to nutrient pollution.
Conservation practices put in place now could take days or even decades to impact water quality.
A federal judge has affirmed the EPA's role in reducing pollution across the watershed.
Innovations in wastewater treatment could help plants curb pollution in the face of development pressure.
What is an algae bloom and how does it form? Charlie Poukish from the Maryland Department of the Environment explains what fuels algae blooms and how they can spell trouble for underwater life.
Decomposing algae blooms can suck oxygen out of the water, suffocating marine life and causing fish kills. In this follow-up to Bay 101: Algae Blooms, Charlie Poukish from the Maryland Department of the Environment documents a fish kill and explains how actions on land can affect life in the water.
Produced by Steve Droter
Music: “A Moment of Jazz” by Ancelin
Clear water is critical to underwater life. Bay grasses need sunlight to grow, and fish need sunlight to see. But what factors cause water clarity to fluctuate? Adam Davis from the Chesapeake Research Consortium explains, and uses a secchi disc to measure water clarity in Spa Creek.
Produced by Matt Rath
Music: “A Moment of Jazz” by Ancelin
Publication date: June 01, 2009 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
This report documents the calculations and procedures for the preparation of the input data to the Watershed Model - HSPF Phase 5. These calculations are used for creating the calibration data as well as scenario data. They form the basis…
Publication date: December 29, 2004 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
In accordance with the requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the goals of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, this paper describes an approach that the US Environmental Protection Agency Regions II and III (EPA) and Chesapeake Bay…
Publication date: December 01, 2003 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
The Chesapeake 2000 agreement has been guiding Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their combined efforts to restore and protect…
Publication date: June 01, 2003 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
In developing revised water quality standards for the Chesapeake Bay and its Tidal tributaries, states may conduct use attainability analyses. This document provides economic analyses performed by the CBP related controls to meet revised…
Publication date: September 01, 2002 | Type of document: Report
Phosphorus plays a major role in nonpoint source pollution. It has become evident that agriculture is experiencing over-application of phosphorus, which has resulted in phosphorus enriched soils in certain locations. The Agricultural…
Publication date: April 10, 2002 | Type of document: Report
One of the Tidal monitoring and Analysis Workgroup's primary responsibilities is assessing and reporting the status and trends of nutrients and other parameters monitored within the scope of the Chesapeake Bay Program water quality and…
Publication date: August 01, 2001 | Type of document: Report
The report describes results from five sampling periods and examine the effects of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on changes in algal biomass, as well as major algal classes.
Publication date: June 19, 2000 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
The phosphorus detergent ban was implemented in the Bay signatory jurisdictions in the mid to late eighties. After the ban's implementation, it became clear that the ban resulted in a significant reduction of discharge in phosphorus from…
Publication date: December 31, 1997 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
This is a report on the status yields and trends of nutrients and sediment and methods of analysis for the nontidal data-collection programs in the Chesapeake Bay Basin
Publication date: January 01, 1997 | Type of document: Report
This report examines the cost effectiveness of control options which reduce nitrate deposition to the Chesapeake watershed and the tidal Bay. The object of the analysis is to determine the sources of atmospheric nitrate deposited to the…
Publication date: November 01, 1996 | Type of document: Report
Eutrophication -- low dissolved oxygen -- caused by excess nutrients, is the most significant water quality problem facing the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Program jurisdictions have committed to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution reaching…
Publication date: October 11, 1995 | Type of document: Report
This report summarizes the workshop proceedings which focused on atmospheric nitrogen compounds. Scientists in key policy and regulatory officials explored mechanisms by which air and water pollution control programs worked together to…
Publication date: June 01, 1993 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
This document is intended to address the inconsistency between parts of the CBP in the sampling and analytical methodology for the determination of particulate concentrations, and offer alternative sampling and analytical procedures to be…
Publication date: January 01, 1993 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
This report focuses on the identified need of the Chesapeake bay Program to better simulate nitrogen outputs from the forested portions of the Bay drainage and a short-term desire to the US EPA to be able to build off of the existing HSPF…
Publication date: June 01, 1992 | Type of document: Report
The primary purpose of this analysis is to determine whether selected lateral and mid-Bay stations in the Chesapeake Bay mainstem have the same overall levels of certain water quality parameters.
Publication date: February 01, 1992 | Type of document: Report
In this report, a comparison data set with helix and block results for the same samples was analyzed to estimate the magnitude of the low bias of the helix method compared to the block method.
Publication date: August 01, 1990 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
As part of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement to which the State of Maryland is a signatory, several plants in Maryland will be required to reduce the nitrogen and phosphorus levels in their affluent. To examine the feasibility of biological…
Publication date: August 01, 1987 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
This study was performed to compare standard EPA techniques for determining nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in natural waters with oceanographic techniques typically employed by estuarine and marine scientists.