The Massachusetts Estuaries Project and Reports

This project studies nutrient loads in coastal waters.

Table of Contents

The Project

Massachusetts Estuaries Project map, 2022
Massachusetts Estuaries Project map, 2022 update. See Additional Resources below for a larger version.

Nutrients are essential to the vitality of our coastal ecosystem. Nutrients, in particular phosphorus and nitrogen, support the growth of aquatic plants, which in turn provide food for the fish, shellfish, and other organisms that live in our coastal waters. An excess of nutrients can result in a decline in aquatic plants and wildlife, negatively impacting these coastal ecosystems. Nutrients come from a variety of sources, including natural and anthropogenic sources. Anthropogenic sources can include septic systems, fertilizer application, and stormwater runoff.

In 2001, the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) was created to help determine current nitrogen loads to southeastern Massachusetts estuaries and evaluate reductions that would be necessary to support healthy ecosystems. The MEP is a collaborative effort between MassDEP, UMass Dartmouth, and southern Massachusetts communities. MEP evaluations will be completed for approximately 70 coastal embayments in southern Massachusetts.

The MEP uses a linked model to evaluate nitrogen inputs to estuaries. This information is used by MassDEP to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for each estuary studied. TMDLs calculate the maximum amount of a pollutant (nitrogen in this case) that a waterbody can assimilate and still support a healthy ecosystem (i.e., meet surface water quality standards and support public health). The MEP also provides technical guidance to support appropriate wastewater, watershed, and embayment management techniques to reduce nitrogen loading. This technical guidance is being used by communities to support the development of Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plans (CWMPs).

Additional Resources   for The Project

South Coast/Buzzards Bay MEP Reports

Cape Cod MEP Reports

Allen, Wychmere, & Saquatucket Harbor Embayment Systems, Harwich MA - 2010

Barnstable and Dennis, MA - June 2017

Bass River Embayment System, Towns of Yarmouth & Dennis, MA - 2011

Centerville River, Barnstable, MA - 2006

Quashnet River, Hamblin Pond, and Jehu Pond, in the Waquoit Bay System of the Towns of Mashpee and Falmouth, MA - January 2005

Stage Harbor, Sulfur Springs, Taylors Pond, Bassing Harbor, & Muddy Creek, Chatham, MA - 2003

Stage Harbor/Oyster Pond, Sulphur Springs/Bucks Creek and Taylors Pond/Mill Creek Chatham, MA - 2007

Falmouth Inner Harbor Embayment System, Falmouth MA - 2013

Fiddlers Cove & Rands Harbor Embayment Systems, Falmouth MA - 2013

Great Perch Pond, Green Pond, & Bournes Pond, Falmouth MA - 2005

Herring River Embayment System, Harwich MA - 2013

Lewis Bay Embayment System, Barnstable/Yarmouth, MA - 2008

Little Pond System, Falmouth, MA - 2006

Megansett-Squeteague Harbor Estuarine System, Falmouth/Bourne, MA - 2015

Namskaket Marsh Estuarine System, Orleans, MA - 2008

Nauset Harbor Embayment System, Orleans & Eastham, MA - 2012

Oyster Pond System, Falmouth MA - 2006

Parkers River Embayment System, Yarmouth MA - 2010

Phinneys Harbor, Eel Pond, & Back River System, Bourne MA - 2006

Pleasant Bay System, Orleans, Chatham, Brewster & Harwich, MA - 2006

Plymouth, Kingston, and Duxbury, MA - December 2017

Popponesset Bay, Mashpee & Barnstable, MA - 2004

Quissett Harbor Embayment System, Falmouth, MA - 2013

Rock Harbor Embayment System, Orleans, MA - 2008

Rushy Marsh, Barnstable, MA - 2008

Salt Pond Embayment System, Falmouth, MA - 2014

Sandwich Harbor Estuary, Sandwich, MA - 2015

Scorton Creek Estuarine System, Sandwich, MA - 2015

Swan Pond River Embayment System, Dennis, MA - 2012

Three Bays, Barnstable, Massachusetts - April 2006

Waquoit Bay & Eel Pond Embayment System, Falmouth & Mashpee, MA - 2013

Wellfleet Harbor Embayment System, Wellfleet, MA - 2017

West Falmouth Harbor, Falmouth, MA - 2006

Wild Harbor Embayment System, Falmouth, MA - 2013

Islands MEP Reports

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