Sources and Quantities of Nutrients Entering the Gulf of Mexico from Surface Waters of the United States
United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water, Gulf of Mexico Program
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This report was prepared for the Nutrient Enrichment Subcommittee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf of Mexico Program. Because nearly 60% of the continental United States drains into the Gulf of Mexico, a large and diverse amount of data are available that could potentially be used to assess the sources and quantities of nutrients entering the Gulf. Unfortunately, data from these studies often are not comparable in their timeframes, methods employed, or the water quality parameters reported. In addition, data on nutrient concentrations in rivers often are not accompanied by data on water flow, therefore pollutant loadings cannot be ascertained. As this report indicates, there is no shortage of appropriate data of documented quality upon which to base decisions about protection of the water on the Gulf of Mexico. This report is not intended to be a complete examination of the sources of nutrients in the Gulf of Mexico. Rather, it represents an effort to examine the data for one specific year - 1989. Funding was inadequate to include analysis of additional years. While care was used in selecting this year, 1989 may not represent a typical year for nutrient inflow into the Gulf. The examination of only one specific year also means that no trend analysis over a multiyear timeframe was performed. It is hoped that future reports will address these and other questions concerning the relationship between nutrient enrichment and the ecological integrity of the Gulf of Mexico. After reviewing this document, the members of the Nutrient Enrichment Subcommittee caution readers to bear these aforementioned limitations of the report in mind.