Curbing Nutrient Pollution

What can be done?

Storm Water Management

A lot can be done through storm water management where water is detained and the volume of water flowing into streams and rivers at any one time is limited.

Retarding run off - rain barrels, rain gardens,stormwater management ponds, impoundments help to reduce or delay run off going into streams and rivers

Identify storm water management ponds that require dredging.

Erosion Control

Survey streams and rivers to identify areas where erosion is occurring. Maintain or upgrade trails and dirt roads in close proximity to streams

Work with landowners and trail maintenance groups to reduce erosion of stream banks.

Prevent Nutrient Pollution

Educate homeowners about the responsible application and use of fertilizers, herbicides and other household chemicals.

Encourage property owners to allow vegetative buffers to grow on their property where the land drains into a watershed.

Reestablish Submerged Aquatic Vegetation and populations of filter feeders.

A great deal of effort has been expended in the past few decades in trying to address the symptoms rather that the root causes of the Bay decline. Some examples of this are replanting beds of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) or seeding an oyster bed. While well intentioned what managers of these projects have failed to recognize is that each of these organisms are components in a larger system in which they work together to maintain the proper environmental conditions for each other. That being said I would suggest that replanting of SAV should be done either near an established population of filter feeders or a population of filter feeders should be created to maintain the clarity of the water. Consideration should be given to seeding the reestablished beds of aquatic vegetation with small snails or other grazers that will feed on the epiphytic algae growing on the SAV.

One possible way of providing this filtering mechanism to newly established beds of eel grass is to use rafts of Blue Mussels of the type used comercially in Europe. Blue Mussels are a native species that is well acclimated for a 5-20 C temperature range, with an upper sustained thermal tolerance limit of about 29C for adults although under 25C is better. This can be augmented by seeding the beds with native clams.

Water Monitoring

Water monitoring can be a useful tool for identifying the source or likely source of pollutants as well determining whether the measures taken to mitigate pollution are successful.

Chemical testing of storm water management ponds, streams to identify areas of high nutrient run off and to home in on point sources.

Evaluating the Impact of Wildlife on Nutrient Pollution

At one time within the Mid Atlantic region, Canada geese would only be seen in the spring and fall as they followed their traditional migratory routes. Today the Chesapeake watershed is host to a rather large population of resident geese that have found the climate to be mild enough for them to survive here year round. Since this is a fairly recent phenomena, there is only a limited amount of data on the impact of this species on the health of local waterways. One thing that we do know is that each goose produces more than a pound of fecal matter per day if not within a body of water certainly close enough to it that surface runoff will transport it into the water.

The photo above shows a flock of geese by the reflecting pool on the Mall in Washington, DC. The green brown material on the white stone are goose droppings, one of the main drawbacks of having populations of resident geese. These droppings are a significant contributor to nutrient pollution and fecal coliform bacteria levels in local streams and rivers.