Assessing TMDL effectiveness using flow-adjusted concentrations: a case study of the Neuse River, North Carolina.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Integrated control of both point and nonpoint source water pollution using Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) assignments will be a major regulatory focus over the next decade. We propose the use of "flow-adjusted" pollutant concentrations to evaluate the effectiveness of management actions taken to meet approved TMDLs. Pollutant concentrations are usually highly correlated with streamflow, and flow is strongly weather-dependent. Thus, pollutant loads, which are calculated as pollutant concentration multiplied by streamflow, have a large weather-dependent variance component. This natural variation can be removed by calculating flow-adjusted concentrations. While such values are not a direct measure of pollutant load, they make it easier to discern changes in streamwater quality. Additionally, they are likely to be a better predictor of pollutant concentrations in the receiving waterbody. We demonstrate the use of this technique using long-term nutrient data from the Neuse River in North Carolina. The Neuse River Estuary has suffered many eutrophication symptoms, and a program to reduce nutrient loading has been in place for several years. We show that, in addition to revealing recent reductions in nutrient inputs, annual flow-adjusted riverine nutrient concentrations show a more pronounced relationship with estuarine nutrient concentrations than do annual nutrient loads. Thus, we suggest that the calculation of flow-adjusted concentrations is a useful technique to aid in assessment of TMDL implementation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Stow, CA; Borsuk, ME

Published Date

  • May 2003

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 37 / 10

Start / End Page

  • 2043 - 2050

PubMed ID

  • 12785506

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1520-5851

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0013-936X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1021/es020802p


  • eng