The Amount of Money Farm Industries should spend on Fertilizers for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

The Chesapeake Bay watershed has multiple pollutant sources. The most prominent pollutant is from agriculture, stormwater, wastewater, fossil fuels, and households. Out of those major sources, the agricultural pollution There are also several following effects to the human, the environment, and the economic. By examining most of the possible pollutant sources, we can formulate an effective mathematical equation that will lead us to the possible solutions.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed area covers about 64,000 square miles. It spans across about 5 states on the East coast[1]. At the western and middle part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the soil is extremely permeable for the water to infiltrate. The surface runoffs are going to carry the wastes and contaminants Every year there are a lot of nutrients flow underground from farmland to the groundwater resource collectives. They eventually affect the habitat and disrupt the ecosystem. In agriculture, the excess fertilizer applied to crops and fields and soil erosion make agriculture one of the largest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the United States. In stormwater, the excess precipitation carries the surface runoff into local waterways and the underground water tables. In wastewater, the unmonitored sewer system is responsible for the excess toxins. Though farmland only covers about 23 percent of the 64,000 square-mile Chesapeake watershed, it is the source of 58 percent of the sediment pollution that reaches the Bay, 58 percent of the phosphorous, and 42 percent of the nitrogen.[2]

The affected area of the Chesapeake Bay is around the edge of the Bay and also the northern part of the Bay there are a lot of heavy source of the pollutant. There are also a lot of the development impact along the fall line across from Virginia to Maryland. Aside from the high development areas, the surrounding landscape is used for agricultural purposes. There is the data that was derived from 30-meter Digital Elevation Models were used to generate a digital watershed. The model is used to determine the total amount of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) in the water.[3]

The excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the ecosystem are going to cause the algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. The excessive growth of algae (algae bloom) can harm the water quality, decrease the area for habitats, and decrease the oxygen level in the water. A Proper amount of oxygen level is required for most of the aquatic species and fish to survive. The most critical problem of algae bloom is that it eliminates oxygen in the water, leading to illness in fish and the death of large numbers of fish. Some of the algae blooms are harmful to humans because they produce elevated toxins and bacterial growth that can make people sick if they come into contact with polluted water, consume tainted fish or shellfish, or drink contaminated water.

There are a lot of efforts that were put to improve the condition of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area. They include reducing pollution, restoring habitats, managing fisheries, protecting watersheds, and fostering stewardship through communication and outreach. Besides the regional strategies that can be implemented through large bodies of water, each household can also try to limit the use of fertilizers for the lawns and house grown plants. The excess chemical fertilizers reach the top of the soil and some of the nutrients are absorbed by the crops and plants.

There are other strategies to control the nutrient such as collaboration of a wide range of people and organizations across the entire watershed, nutrient management, cover crops, buffers, conservation tillage, managing livestock waste, and drainage water management. It is important to recognize the educational opportunities for farmers and conservation groups. In nutrient management, it is important to also apply the fertilizers at proper amount. This will significantly reduce the risk of pollution. Another method is to cover the crops with certain grasses, grains, or clovers can help to absorb the excess nutrient in the soil. There are many other solutions for the treatment of water. The best way to eliminate excess nutrients is to not apply so many fertilizers at the first place.[4]

Most of the nutrient pollutions can be found largely underground even before it reaches the larger watershed and into the sea. There are millions of people in the country use the groundwater as their drinking water resource. Infants are vulnerable to a nitrogen-based compound called nitrates in the drinking water. The nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed can affect our daily life in subtle ways. It is important to treat the water from the heat source. It would be harder to manage the pollution when the pollutants reach to the end of the system.

Question: how much do farmers and the industry spend for fertilizers needed in the farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area?

The farmland covers about 23 percent of the entire 64,000 square-miles Chesapeake Bay watershed. 20lb of each nitrogen and phosphorous, a total of 40 lb of nutrient is needed to provide per acre farmland. One gallon of liquid fertilizer weighs 10 lb. Five percent of 10 lbs is 0.5 lb of nitrogen/phosphorus. To get 20lb of the nutrients, one acre of farmland will need 40 barrows of the nutrients. The cost of nutrient per gallon is 20 dollars. It would take 800 dollars to properly fertilize the farmland. 1 square mile is about 640 acres. 64,000 square miles is about 40,960,000 acres. The total farmland is about 23% of the 40,960,000 acres, which is about 9,420,800 acres. The total amount of money spent on nutrients (nitrogen/phosphorus) is about 7,536,640,000 dollars for a one-time application. It is roughly about 7.5 billion dollars spent on nutrients.


  1. \(  \frac{64,000 square miles}{1} \times  \frac{640 acres}{1 square mile} =  40,960,000 acres \)
  2. \(  40,960,000 acres \times  \frac{23}{100} = \text{9,420,800 acres total farmland in Chesapeake Bay Watershed}  \)
  3. \(  20lbs  \times  .5 = \text{40lbs for an application of one acre}  \)
  4. \(  40lbs  \times  \frac{20 dollars}{1lb} = \frac{800 dollars}{acre}  \)
  5. \(  9,420,800 acres \times  \frac{800 dollars}{acre} \approx  \text{7.5 billion dollars per application} \)



Bay Footprint Calculator

Total Maximum Daily Loads

Nitrogen Footprint Calculator

Digital Data Used to Relate Nutrient Inputs to Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Version 2.0

Addressing Nutrient Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex3791

State Progress Toward Developing Numeric Nutrient Water Quality Criteria for Nitrogen and Phosphorus

Ismail Sirageldin, Sustainable Human Development in the Twenty-First Century – Volume II, 2008, EOLSS

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[3] Ismail Sirageldin, Sustainable Human Development in the Twenty-First Century – Volume II, 2008, EOLSS



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