Evaluation of management strategies for reducing nitrogen loadings to four US estuaries

D. Whitall, M. Castro, C. Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In this study we used the Watershed Assessment Tool for Evaluating Reduction Strategies for Nitrogen (WATERSN) model to evaluate a variety of management strategies for reducing nitrogen (N) loads to four US east coast estuaries: Casco Bay, Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay and Pamlico Sound. These management strategies encompass reductions in atmospheric emissions and deposition of N from sources including, fossil fuel burning utility emissions and mobile NOx emissions, N treatment in wastewater and controls on agricultural N inputs. We find that in primarily urban watersheds biological removal of N in wastewater treatment produces the greatest reduction in N loading (32-57% reductions), while in less urban watersheds, reductions in agricultural loading are more effective (5-56% reductions) in decreasing N loads to coastal ecosystems. Because anthropogenic N inputs are derived from a variety of sources, we also examined an integrated scenario targeting all major N sources; this resulted in 35-58% reductions in N loading. Nitrogen pollution originates from multiple sources and is transported through several media (air, soil, water); a major challenge of the development of N management strategies will be the control of multiple sources to effectively reduce N loads to estuaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 15 2004


  • Estuaries
  • Eutrophication
  • Nitrogen pollution
  • Nutrient management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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