Project #4974

Holistic Approach to Improved Nutrient Management

Principal Investigator
Research Manager
Harry Zhang, PhD, PE
HDR Engineering, Inc.
Integrated Planning & Water Management
Water Quality
Source & Receiving Waters


The overarching goal of this study was to improve nutrient management on a national scale by using a holistic watershed approach to address both urban and agricultural issues. A series of interactive webcasts supported by Bay Area Clean Water Agencies (BACWA), Philadelphia Water Department, Iowa Soybean Association, and City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, led to a research roadmap and action items that foster innovation and new opportunities.

Practices, policies, and partnerships can be used to analyze barriers to watershed nutrient management. Identification of the limiting factor may lead to improved strategies to affect change in a constructive manner and potentially alleviate overemphasizing management actions unlikely to result in water quality improvements or net environmental benefits. Integrating practices, policies, and partnerships in a balanced fashion that avoids skewing management considerations and illuminates the potential convergence of these factors may result in opportunities for improved nutrient management. In watersheds where advanced wastewater treatment practices have been invested in and substantial point source nutrient reduction has been accomplished, it may be advisable to explore opportunities in policies and partnerships to further advance watershed restoration. Managers from individual disciplines may find it essential to operate outside of traditional boundaries in order to identify and develop areas of convergent interests with other stakeholders. Furthermore, overarching influences of climate change and environmental justice warrant consideration in watershed nutrient management. This project worked to advance the understanding of the interrelationships between practices, policies, and partnerships to improve the potential for successful watershed management. Published in 2023.