Drought Effects on River Input

a photo showing the effects of the drought in a pond located in Maryland
Drought impacts include lower water levels in
reservoirs and ponds like this pond in Frederick County,
this photo was taken during the 2002 drought.

Average monthly streamflows for the first six months of 2003 in Marylandís four major tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay have generally been above the 1985-2001 average and well above levels observed in 2002. The graphs and text below compare average monthly flows for 2003 to 2002 and the monthly ranges and averages for a long-term period between 1985 and 2001.

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The data used in the charts and descriptions that follow were obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey and can be downloaded from their web site. Note that data for 2002 and 2003 are provisional and have not undergone a full quality assurance check by the USGS.

See River Flow Conditions for:  
Susquehanna River
, Potomac River, Patuxent River, Choptank River


Susquehanna River (at Conowingo Dam, Maryland)

The Susquehanna River, which is the largest of the nine tributaries in Maryland and Virginia, contributes approximately 60% of the total freshwater flow to the Chesapeake Bay. Mean monthly flows in 2002 were below their respective monthly averages for seven months of the year and below the long-term average when the entire year of data are considered. Flow has been above average for four out of the first six months of 2003 with a new maximum flow in June, based on 1985-2001 data.

graph of Susquehanna River Flow

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Potomac River (at Little Falls, Washington, D.C.)

The Potomac River is the second largest tributary in Maryland and Virginia and contributes approximately 20% of the total freshwater flow to the Chesapeake Bay. Mean monthly flows in 2002 were below their respective monthly averages for nine months of the year. The above average flows for the remaining three months of 2002 were not sufficient to bring the year up to the long-term average. Mean monthly flow in 2003 has been above average for five out of the first six months with a new maximum in June, based on 1985-2001 data.

graph of Potomac River Flow

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Patuxent River (at Bowie, MD)

The Patuxent River is a minor tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. Mean monthly flows in 2002 were below the long-term average for eight months, with a new minimum in February, based on 1985-2001 data. Streamflow in 2003 has been above average for five out of the first six months in 2003, with a new maximum in June.

graph of Patuxent River Flow

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Choptank River (at Greensboro, MD)

Of the four major Maryland tributaries, the Choptank River contributes the least amount of freshwater flow to the Chesapeake Bay. Mean monthly streamflows in 2002 were below their respective monthly averages for nine months of the year, with new minimum levels reached during four months. Starting in November 2002, mean monthly streamflows have been well above their respective monthly averages and have been above average for the first six months of 2003. New monthly maximum values were observed in November 2002 and June 2003.

graph of Choptank River Flow

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*2003 data are provisional

For more information, please contact Sherm Garrison at (410) 260-8624.

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