Dry Fall Contributes to Clearer Water in the Chesapeake

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The Chesapeake Bay has been reportedly clearer this season. Bay waters start to get less murky as temperatures drop (and algae growth slows) in autumn and winter. However, Bay-front residents have been impressed by just how clear waters have been recently.

Clear waters signify lower nutrient and sediment levels and improved water quality throughout the Bay. With fewer pollutants present, sunlight can reach submerged aquatic vegetation (underwater grasses), that act as important sources of shelter and food for finfish, shellfish and other aquatic species.

This season’s improved water clarity is likely attributed to low levels of precipitation this past fall. Less rain translates to less runoff, which brings nutrients and sediments into the estuary from freshwater sources. The Susquehanna River, the largest contributor to nutrients and sediments in the Bay Watershed, had, according to the USGS, two-thirds the rate of its average flow into the Bay this past September and October. The Susquehanna generally discharges large loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Bay, due to the large amount of agricultural activity that takes place within this subwatershed.

We saw indicators of good water quality (with low nitrate and phosphate levels) in Antipoison Creek this September, where waters have also been pretty clear. Water samples for the rest of the year were just sent into the laboratory for testing, so we are waiting on these results, which should tell a fuller story on water quality in Antipoison Creek. In terms of long-term water quality results, it will be interesting to see if these good water quality results were influenced by the fall drought of 2015 – if our water quality results were only temporary- or if this particular part of the Bay is in pretty good health.

Source: Pilot Online 

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