Comparison of Two Alternative Methods for Developing TMDLs to Address Sediment Impairments

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While excessive sediment is a leading cause of aquatic life use impairments in free-flowing rivers in Virginia, there is no numeric sediment-water quality criterion. As a result, total maximum daily load (TMDL) sediment loads are often established using a comparable, nonimpaired reference watershed. Selecting a suitable reference watershed can be problematic. This case study compared the reference watershed approach (RWA) which uses the Generalized Watershed Loading Function and the disaggregate method (DM) which uses output from Phase 5.3 of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model. In this case study, the two methods were used to develop sediment TMDLs for three impaired watersheds in Virginia (Taylor Creek, Turley Creek, and Long Meadow Run). In this case study comparison, the RWA required between 12.8 and 14.7 times greater sediment load reductions (t/year) to reach the TMDL load (Taylor Creek > Long Meadow Run > Turley Creek) when compared to the reductions called for using the DM. While each TMDL development method has inherent limitations, the DM uses output from the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model to establish TMDL target loads. This means that the application of the DM is restricted to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Benthic impairments, Chesapeake Bay, Reference watershed approach, Sediment, Total maximum daily load (TMDL), Generalized watershed loading function (GWLF)