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Report says Inland Bays water quality improving, but can do better

Katie Young
Delaware Center for the Inland Bays
Overlooking Rehoboth Bay with goldenrod

The water quality in Delaware’s Inland Bays is getting better, but still has room to improve, according to the 2016 State of the Inland Bays report.

The report, filed by the Center for the Inland Bays, shows a decrease in excess nutrients being discharged into the Little Assawoman Bay, Rehoboth and Indian River bays. Marianne Walch, the center’s science coordinator, said the number of wastewater treatment plants are dwindling and as a result, putting fewer nutrients into the bay. But there’s still a lot of work to do, she said.

“I think one of the most surprising things to me was the lack of progress that we’ve made over the last five years in some of the sources of nitrogen and phosphorous in the bays,” Walch said.

The First State is working on that. Walch said several treatment plants were removed over the last few years. However, the biggest pollutant sources are stormwater, fertilizers and agricultural runoff.

The center found improvements in water quality across Little Assawoman Bay and the open water areas of the bays around the Indian River Inlet.

“And the likely reason for that is the amount of water that’s flushing in and out of the Indian River inlet with the tides has been increasing steadily over the years,” Walch said. “In addition to flushing with the tides, we’re also flushing out nutrients and other pollutants that’s coming into the bays.”

But Walch said she worries increased development around the bays could lead to more pollutants flowing into the water. Since 1992, development has increased by 75 percent around Delaware’s three Inland Bays.

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