Water quality monitoring in the Anacostia River is plagued by inconsistent and uncoordinated efforts by different municipalities and non-profit organizations throughout its watershed.

Over the years, there have been studies that collected basic and important water quality parameters (e.g. temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, bacteria, and phytoplankton composition) that help determine the health of the River.

However, one large component that has been lacking from these monitoring studies or programs is assessing the concentration and impact of organic nitrogen, especially urea, that could compose more than 50 percent of the total nitrogen that comes from the 17 combined sewage outfalls along the DC portion of the Anacostia River.

If present in high concentrations, urea as a liable part of the organic nitrogen pool could simulate harmful dinoflagellate and cyanobacterial blooms that could release toxins into the Anacostia River.

This study involves collecting samples at 10 sites for nutrient concentrations, bacteria and phytoplankton composition, nitrogen uptake and assimilation enzyme rates, and toxin production to better understand the impact of organic nitrogen in the Anacostia River.

Dr. Solomon’s project is funded by the DC Water Resource Research Institute at the University of DC.

Students working with Dr. Solomon visit the Anacostia River bi-weekly with the Anacostia Waterkeeper and are involved with water sampling, analysis, and interpretation of data that will help raise awareness regarding the health of the Anacostia River.

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Nutrient Dynamics in the Anacostia River

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