Science Inventory

Application of a structured decision making process for nitrogen pollution management on Cape Cod


Martin, D., A. Piscopo, Marty Chintala, T. Gleason, AND W. Berry. Application of a structured decision making process for nitrogen pollution management on Cape Cod. Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) 24th Biennial Conference, Providence, Rhode Island, November 06 - 09, 2017.


Human activities in the coastal zones of Southern New England have influenced the quality and quantity of goods and services provided by coastal wetlands, estuaries, and seas. Among the more pressing concerns is increased nitrogen loading into coastal water bodies. Over the past several decades, the region has experienced a significant increase in reactive nitrogen compounds due in large part to on-site household wastewater disposal, resulting in declining quality in coastal water bodies. There is a mandate and need for local communities to focus on human-induced changes to water quality and how they may be ameliorated in their resident watershed(s). The towns on Cape Cod are currently developing comprehensive water quality management plans with guidance from the U.S. EPA and the Cape Cod Commission, the regional land use planning organization responsible for ensuring environmental protection and economic progress. The management plans aim to investigate how combinations of strategies and technologies may be implemented to abate coastal water quality impairment. The plans focus on nitrogen loading into coastal water bodies to meet total maximum daily load mandates. Our stakeholder collaborators are interested in exploratory research that may convert the single-objective outlook (i.e., minimize cost), which is currently the sole nitrogen management viewpoint of stakeholders, into a multi-objective outlook (i.e., minimize cost, maximize social-ecological benefit) and scenario analysis. This presentation will be based on our exploratory decision-analytic scenario analysis process to support better water quality management decisions. We use the Three Bays watershed as a case study for such an analysis.


Significant release of reactive nitrogen into coastal water bodies has resulted in declining water quality in Southern New England. The Three Bays Preservation Association, in collaboration with the Cape Cod Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and local water resource consultants, are working to address this issue, while also maximizing the goods and services available from coastal water bodies. The available management options aim to meet mandated reductions of nitrogen inputs into surface and groundwater while limiting impacts to tourism, recreation, and the local economy. Key uncertainties associated with the options include permitting, the effectiveness of novel management options, localized environmental impacts, and public acceptability. We applied a structured decision making approach to develop and evaluate several sets of management options as alternative management scenarios in the Three Bays watershed. The scenarios were developed with quantitative and qualitative data based on identifying key ecosystem-based objectives and estimating performance measures. The scenarios were screened with a quantitative decision analysis process to identify preferred scenarios that could be implemented in the next several years. Our findings reveal strengths and weaknesses of the ecosystem-based structured decision making approach for addressing the impacts of coastal water quality impairment.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 11/06/2017
Record Last Revised: 12/04/2017
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 338578