Streamflow in the Chesapeake Bay, though still higher than average, was in the "normal" range for the first time this year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Flows into the Bay were about 115 billion gallons per day, the USGS said. While above the long-term average of about 94 billion gallons per day, the April flows were still within the range that USGS hydrologists consider normal.
So far this year, flows have been higher than average every month. In January and February, they were more than twice the normal flow. February flows set a record for the month. Flows in March were about 50 percent above average.
With rain pounding most of the watershed for more than 10 straight days in early May, flows for that month are expected to be higher than normal as well.
High flows are directly related to water quality in the Bay. As water runs off the land, it carries sediment and nutrients collected along the way. As a result, the high flows experienced so far this year are expected to result in unusually large amounts of nutrients and sediment being delivered to the Bay.
Increased nutrients can trigger algae blooms which, along with sediment in the water, block sunlight from reaching important underwater grasses that provide important food and habitat for waterfowl, crabs, juvenile fish and other species. Also, when the algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that depletes the water of oxygen critical for many aquatic species.