Aighewi, I.T.; Nosakhare, O.K., and Ishaque, A.B., 2013. Land use–land cover changes and sewage loading in the lower Eastern Shore watersheds and coastal bays of Maryland: Implications for surface water quality.
Changes in land use and cover influence surface water quality and thus are a potential threat to water systems and coastal ecosystem health. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the influence of historical land use–land cover (LULC) changes and point-source sewage discharge on surface water quality of some lower Eastern Shore watersheds of Maryland. LANDSAT data for 1986–2006 was acquired and classified using Anderson level-1 classification system in ENVI 4.5, whereas LULC changes were detected in Arc-GIS 9.2 environment. Historical water monitoring and climatic data were obtained from Maryland Department of Environment–Chesapeake Bay Program, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, respectively. Nutrient loading data from wastewater treatment plants were obtained from Maryland Department of Environment and data analyzed using regression analysis and principal component analysis (PCA). The result shows that total phosphorous levels in the surface waters decreased significantly (p < 0.05) during the 20-year study period. However, using PCA, we determined that the declining P trend was attributable to the decreasing agricultural land use rather than the sewage discharge from wastewater treatment plants. The increase in urban land use and the resultant runoff to the water bodies may explain the declining trends in dissolved oxygen levels observed during the period, with serious implications for eutrophication. An empirical model developed for P in surface waters (r2 = 0.90) showed that the combination of point and nonpoint sources and land use/cover change factors are good predictors. The incorporation of quantitative LULC data component as well as point-source nutrient loading into existing models is highly recommended for a more holistic assessment of land-use influence on water systems in general.