A special report from the Inland Bays Foundation:

Analysis of Delaware Nonpoint Source (NPS) Pollution 2014 Annual Report prepared by DNREC- (analysis performed by Doug Parham, President, Inland bays Foundation for your benefit, July 19, 2015)

After a rather successful  2014 Program year, the Inland Bays Foundation has turned its Strategic Vision away from Point Sources of Pollution and will focus on analysis and finding low cost (to the tax payer) solutions for non- point contribution of Nutrient and Bacteria pollution to our Inland Bays during our 2015 Plan Year. Remember 70 % of all pollution comes from non-point sources and 70% of that total comes from Agriculture.

We’d like to thank the DNREC NPS Program Manager – Bob Palmer, and his team for the excellent and factual report submitted to the EPA on behalf of concerned citizens in Delaware.

Here are key excerpts from the 2014 Annual Report: (the Foundation recommends you read the full report- you can contact Bob at  302-922-9170)


Nonpoint Source (NPS) pollution constitutes the nation’s largest source of water quality problems. Approximately 40 percent of the United States rivers, lakes, and estuaries surveyed to date are not clean enough to meet basic uses such as fishing or swimming due to NPS pollution.

To counter the ever expanding NPS problem, Congress established the NPS Pollution Management Program under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1987.

More than 90 percent of Delaware’s waterways are considered impaired.

“Impaired waters” are polluted waters.  More technically, they are waters that do not meet water-quality standards for their designated uses, such as recreation, fishing, or drinking. Impaired waters could be suffering from excess nutrients, low dissolved oxygen, toxins, bacteria, heat, or any combination of these problems.


Reduction of nonpoint sources of pollution is achieved through the incorporation or installation of specific best management practices (BMPs) addressing agriculture, silviculture, construction, septic systems, and hydromodification activities.


It’s the mission of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to protect and manage the state’s vital natural resources, protect public health and safety, provide quality outdoor recreation and to serve and educate the citizens of the First State about the wise use, conservation and enhancement of Delaware’s Environment.


Reduction of NPS pollution is most often achieved through incorporation of specific best management practices (BMPs) into project work-plans.


At least 40 percent of the overall project cost of all projects must be represented by non-federal matching funds.


  • Projects funded through the Clean Water Act, section 319(h) Grant that were completed during calendar year reported implementing best management practices resulting in the following pollutant load reductions: nitrogen 640,272 pounds/year and phosphorus 20,945 pounds/year.


Four watershed plans in Delaware, the Upper Chesapeake Bay Watershed Management Plan, the Chester/Choptank Watershed Management Plan, the Pocomoke/Wicomico Watershed Management Plan, the Nanticoke Watershed Management Plan, and the Broadkill Watershed Management Plan, were completed, reviewed and approved by EPA in 2014.


During 2014, a total of 21 expiring CRP and CREP contracts were enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in Delaware totaling 183 acres. In 2014, a total of 31 plans and contracts were developed for 218 acres.


  1. Inland Bays


Goal: Current goals call for the increased implementation of numerous nonpoint source best management practices, especially in the agriculture sector (see below for a highlight of key numeric targets).  The goals are those that were presented by Inland Bays Pollution Control Strategies (PCS) and an approved EPA watershed plan.  The PCS involves many strategies to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous to meet the TMDL, but what is presented here are initiatives of the 319 program.


Nutrient Management Goals
Nutrient Management Goals

Table 4: Water quality data collected in the Inland Bays from 2004 to present show the following trends:

Location N Trend P trend TSS Trend
Buoy 20, Indian River Bay flat Up down
Buoy 7, Rehoboth Bay flat Flat down
Little Assawoman Mid-Bay down flat down



While we have met or exceeded our overall load reduction expectations within the targeted watersheds, the NPS Program did not achieve a few specific implementation goals we have set for ourselves. The exact goals for early/standard/late cover crops were not achieved, but cost share programs have been modified to emphasize early plantings and this acreage is expected to increase in the future. Forest buffer acreage did not increase and members of the agriculture community have indicated that current market prices of crops do not support land conversion for buffers at this time. A collaborative group plans to examine how much of an additional cost share incentive is needed to encourage additional enrollment in buffer programs. The tons of poultry litter transported has decreased in recent years; Delaware believes in general that the total volume of litter has decreased as has the nutrient content of the litter and staff are working with the CBP Ag Workgroup to assess the data and make necessary model modifications. Finally, the onsite pump out goal was not achieved, but regulations have been proposed requiring a pump-out and inspection at the time of property sale or transfer and will also require reporting when inspections occur; both requirements are expected to increase the number of pump-outs reported each year.


Land Use Changes/Challenges

Ed Ratledge, Director of the Center for Applied Demography and Survey Research at the University of Delaware says the number of acres of farmland is decreasing.  Delaware had approximately 900,000 acres of farmland in 1920.  Currently, we have about 580,000 acres in the state.  Farmland acres are projected to continue to decrease until we reach about 380,000 acres by 2030.


The NPS program must address land use changes and trends for the next five years and beyond.  As water runs over the landscape it picks up pollutants.  These pollutants are either discharged into surface waters through runoff or seep through the soils into groundwater.  The polluted groundwater eventually gets into the surface waters.  As the landscape changes, so too does the funding demands of the NPS Program. Because of this fact, looking at land use will give the NPS Program goals, objectives and funding needs in which to focus the various resources the NPS Program receives. Agriculture BMPs, historically, have given the NPS Program the biggest return of nutrient uptake per dollar spent.


The trend of land use from agriculture to urban in the future could also mean a trend for the NPS program to spend more money on technologies and initiatives to reduce non-point source pollution.  When land is developed nutrient loadings come from multiple sources, such as yard maintenance, wastewater disposal, storm water runoff, soil erosion, and increases in impervious cover.  Delaware is the 9th fastest growing state according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  The fast rate of growth in Delaware means an increase in urban/residential areas.  An increase in urban/residential areas nutrient loads from these land uses must be dealt with without relinquishing our efforts in agriculture.

Read the complete report: 2014 Annual Report rrp3-30-2015