Source contribution to phosphorus loads from the Maumee River watershed to Lake Erie

Jeffrey B. Kast, Anna M. Apostel, Margaret M. Kalcic, Rebecca L. Muenich, Awoke Dagnew, Colleen M. Long, Grey Evenson, Jay F. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Coastal eutrophication is a leading cause of degraded water quality around the world. Identifying the sources and their relative contributions to impaired downstream water quality is an important step in developing management plans to address water quality concerns. Recent mass-balance studies of Total Phosphorus (TP) loads of the Maumee River watershed highlight the considerable phosphorus contributions of non-point sources, including agricultural sources, degrading regional downstream water quality. This analysis builds upon these mass-balance studies by using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool to simulate the movement of phosphorus from manure, inorganic fertilizer, point sources, and soil sources, and respective loads of TP and Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus (DRP). This yields a more explicit estimation of source contribution from the watershed. Model simulations indicate that inorganic fertilizers contribute a greater proportion of TP (45% compared to 8%) and DRP (58% compared to 12%) discharged from the watershed than manure sources in the March–July period, the season driving harmful algal blooms. Although inorganic fertilizers contributed a greater mass of TP and DRP than manure sources, the two sources had similar average delivery fractions of TP (2.7% for inorganic fertilizers vs. 3.0% for manure sources) as well as DRP (0.7% for inorganic fertilizers vs. 1.2% for manure sources). Point sources contributed similar proportions of TP (5%) and DRP (12%) discharged in March–July as manure sources. Soil sources of phosphorus contributed over 40% of the March–July TP load and 20% of the March–July DRP load from the watershed to Lake Erie. Reductions of manures and inorganic fertilizers corresponded to a greater proportion of phosphorus delivered from soil sources of phosphorus, indicating that legacy phosphorus in soils may need to be a focus of management efforts to reach nutrient load reduction goals. In agricultural watersheds aground the world, including the Maumee River watershed, upstream nutrient management should not focus solely on an individual nutrient source; rather a comprehensive approach involving numerous sources should be undertaken.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111803
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Jan 15 2021


  • Legacy phosphorus
  • Manure
  • Nutrient loading
  • Soil and water assessment tool

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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