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It demonstrates that reducing nutrient pollution does result in water quality improvement.
Declining clarity has gradually reduced eelgrass cover the past two decades, primarily in deeper beds where light is already limiting.
In shallow beds, however, reduced visibility exacerbates the physiological stress of acute warming, leading to recent instances of decline approaching 80 percent.” Water Clarity: The famous “Bernie Fowler Wade-In” or “sneaker index” — the depth in inches below the surface where his white sneakers can no longer be seen — may not seem very scientific, but has been heralded by National Aeronautics and Space Administration as being a reasonably accurate yardstick.
(See NASA scientists deem Fowler’s wade-in data out of this world, June 2017.) Meanwhile, increased water clarity is unproven.
Volume of the Dead Zone: A 2011 study concluded “Evaluation of a 60-year record of hypoxic volumes demonstrated significant increases in early summer hypoxia (low oxygen), but a slight decrease in late summer hypoxia.” A small decrease in the volume of anoxic water in late summer was confirmed in a 2018 study.
Sea Grass Abundance: Recently, seagrass — submerged vegetation, or SAV — beds exceeded 100,000 acres, as was reported with great glee. Some believe the Bay once had about 600,000 acres of SAV.
In the mid-1980s, acreage had declined to less than 40,000, which has now slightly more than doubled.That low-hanging (expensive) fruit has already been picked.Reducing pollution from chemical crop fertilization is necessary, although many complex issues are involved.A waterway in Virginia becomes impaired when monitoring results indicate failure to meet state water quality standards The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) then facilitates the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for various pollutants.HRPDC’s Water Resources Department coordinates with DEQ, Hampton Roads localities, and stakeholders to develop TMDL Implementation Plans and to conduct TMDL outreach activities.Farmers, supported by the powerful agricultural lobby, seek to maximize their harvest (profit) without paying for the pollution they cause. Most of the grain produced in the Bay watershed feeds animals raised for meat, not humans.At least four metrics can be used to gauge Bay water quality.Additionally, most of the recent SAV increase is from low– or intermediate-salinity species, while eelgrass — the most critical species in the Lower Bay — continues to decline.A 2017 paper in the journal Global Change Biology stated, “eelgrass area has declined 29 percent in total since 1991, with wide-ranging and severe ecological and economic consequences.Many TMDLs, TMDL Implementation Plans, and TMDL Action Plans have been completed for waters located within or partially within the Hampton Roads region; others are under development.Despite decades of concern, beginning seriously with the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1977, water quality improvement in the Chesapeake Bay after 40 years is disappointingly small.