Chesapeake Bay Dead Zone "Smaller Than Average" This Year

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HAVRE DE GRACE - The Chesapeake Bay's "dead zone," where the water contains nearly no oxygen was smaller than average this summer, signaling progress towards revitalizing the estuary.

Data collected by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science found that the bay had its 10th smallest "dead zone" since monitoring began in 1985.

Excess algae creates "dead zones" in the bay. Algae blooms come from nutrients, frequently provided by fertilizers or animal waste which flow into the bay through streams and rivers.

When there is more algae than organisms can consume, the algae sinks to the bottom of the bay and decomposes in a process that removes oxygen.

According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, this year's improvement in the bay's health was driven by lower-than-average river flows. Less rain and lower river levels pick up fewer nutrients as the water makes its way into the Chesapeake.

This year, the average river flow into the bay was 73,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), down from the reported average of 79,000 CFS.

Despite the slight improvements, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says there is astill much more to do.

"While we have been frustrated by a lack of accountability at the overall watershed level, we've participated in successful partnerships with environmental organizations and community advocates to make progress toward a restored bay."

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