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USGS National and Regional Projects

Click on the name of a project below to learn more about that project.


Small Watershed Studies

Purpose and scope: Investigate small watersheds in the Andover, Bucks Branch, and Chester Showcase watersheds designed to document the effects of agriculture conservation practices (i.e., irrigation, manure application) on the hydrology and shallow groundwater. The research includes a groundwater flow path study, surface water synoptic sampling, and continuous and discrete sampling.

For more information, visit the project webpages for each location:
Andover Branch and Bucks Branch

Diagram showing transport pathway of nutrients into and out of the watershed.
Diagram showing transport pathway of nutrients into and out of the watershed.



Chesapeake Bay Studies

The USGS has the critical role to provide scientific information for the improved understanding and management of the Bay ecosystem. The USGS works with Federal, State, and academic science partners to provide research, assessment, monitoring, and modeling of the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Chesapeake Bay Studies

Diagram showing pathways of water transport that affects stream water quality.
Diagram showing pathways of water transport that affects stream water quality.



NAWQA Support

Several scientists are leading national efforts supporting the NAWQA program, and their contribution to the program is as follows:

Allen Gellis: Geomorphology, Regional Studies Quality Assessment

Scott Ator: Regional SPARROW Modeling

Mike Wieczorek: Hydrologic Systems Team, Geospatial Analysis

John Brakebill: Hydrologic Systems Team, Geospatial Coordinator

Jeff Raffensperger: Groundwater Hydrologist, Integrated Watershed Assessments

For more information, visit the project webpage: NAWQA Program

Regional assessment of nutrient sources.
Regional assessment of nutrient sources.



Regional SPARROW Modeling

SPARROW (Spatially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes) models have been developed for seven large regions of the continguous United States. Results from the models can be used to compare nutrient sources and watersheds that contribute elevated nutrient loads to downstream receiving waters.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Regional SPARROW Model Assessments of Streams and Rivers

Sparrow models have been developed for seven out of eight regions in the continguous United States.
Sparrow models have been developed for seven out of eight regions in the continguous United States.



Purpose and Scope: The scope of this project was to classify the effectiveness of depressional wetlands at mitigating nitrogen transport to surface waters in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Project Lead: Judy Denver and Scott Ator

Duration: 2010-2012

Collaborators/Cooperators: USDA

Aerial photographs showing various types of wetlands.
Aerial photographs showing various types of wetlands.

USGS Publication: A Regional Classification of the Effectiveness of Depressional Wetlands at Mitigating Nitrogen Transport to Surface Waters in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain



Chesapeake Bay River Input Program

The objectives of the Chesapeake Bay nontidal monitoring program are to:

  • Quantify sediment and nutrient loads in the nontidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • Estimate changes over time (trends) in sediment and nutrient concentrations that are related to the implementation of Best Management Practices, or other anthropogenic factors.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Water Quality Loads and Trends at Nontidal Monitoring Stations in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed



This Science Summary is one in a series designed to facilitate the understanding and applications of relevant USGS studies by Chesapeake Bay resource managers and policy makers.

The summary provides a brief overview of key findings based on the updated (2011) SPARROW models and described in Ator and others (2011); an understanding of how this information can be used to develop effective management policies and practices; a description of data availability; and a list of resources that can be accessed for additional information.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Science Summary Sources, Fate, and Transport of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed



As the largest and most productive estuary in North America, Chesapeake Bay is a vital ecological and economic resource. In recent decades, however, the bay and its tributaries have been degraded by excessive inputs of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment from contributing watersheds. A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was established to reduce inputs of nutrients and sediment to meet water-quality standards in the bay.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has developed approaches and tools that can be used in the TMDL framework to help determine the sources, transport, storage, and residence time of sediment in watersheds of various sizes. Suspended-sediment monitoring and modeling are used to identify the locations that generate the greatest sediment loads and yields (loads per unit watershed area).

For more information, visit the project webpage: Sediment Sources and Transport in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed



The multidisciplinary expertise of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the ability of the USGS to evaluate systems at local to regional scales allow the USGS to apply integrated science that provides unique information that will support the Bay community in the coordinated implementation of effective conservation and restoration strategies.

This integrated science will use a combination of monitoring, modeling, research, and assessment to:

  • Provide an improved understanding of the ecosystem to better target implementation of effective conservation and restoration strategies,
  • Assess ecosystem change to help evaluate the effectiveness of these management strategies,
  • Understand how land-use change affects water quality,
  • Forecast the potential impacts of increasing human population and climate variability, and
  • Synthesize the findings and provide implications to help policy makers and resource managers adapt improved approaches for ecosystem conservation, restoration, and sustainability.

For more information, visit the project webpage: Chesapeake Bay Trends - Factors Affecting Water Quality and Quantity




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