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Computing Atmospheric Nutrient Loads to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Tidal Waters

Published: October 01, 2013

Application of integrated Chesapeake Bay models of the airshed, watershed, and estuary support air and water nitrogen controls in the Chesapeake. The models include an airshed model of the Mid-Atlantic
region which tracks the estimated atmospheric deposition loads of nitrogen to the watershed, tidal Bay, and adjacent coastal ocean. The three integrated models allow tracking of the transport and fate of nitrogen air emissions, including deposition in the Chesapeake watershed, the subsequent uptake, transformation, and transport to Bay tidal waters, and their ultimate influence on Chesapeake water quality. This article describes the development of the airshed model, its application to scenarios supporting the Chesapeake Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), and key findings from the scenarios. Key findings are that the atmospheric deposition loads are among the largest input loads of nitrogen in the watershed, and that the indirect nitrogen deposition loads to the watershed, which are subsequently delivered to the Bay are larger than the direct loads of atmospheric nitrogen deposition to Chesapeake tidal waters. Atmospheric deposition loads of nitrogen deposited in coastal waters, which are exchanged with the Chesapeake, are also estimated. About half the atmospheric deposition loads of nitrogen originate from outside the Chesapeake watershed. For the first time in a TMDL, the loads of atmospheric nitrogen deposition are an explicit part of the TMDL load reductions.

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