Pollution Control Strategies and Tributary Action Teams

A 1997 federal court case required Delaware to set pollution limits for its waterways. These limits are called Total Maximum Daily Loads or TMDLs, a term you will hear a lot in water pollution discussions. In order to meet these new pollution limits, we are identifying ways to reduce water pollution.

Usually, citizens don’t get involved in this process until after government agencies develop strategies – which can lead to opposition to the proposals. But Delaware is taking a new course with the Tributary Action Team process. By getting citizens, farmers, educators, landowners, scientists and elected officials involved in sorting out the difficult issues, wrestling with the trade-offs, and developing ways to reduce pollution, we hope paths forward will have greater support in the communities they affect. The Tributary Action Team concept is an exciting opportunity for everyone in Delaware to make a big difference in the health of the environment.

Each Tributary Action Team that has been formed (Appoquinimink, Broadkill, Christina Basin, Inland Bays, Mispillion and Cedar, Murderkill, Nanticoke, St. Jones, and Upper Chesapeake) engages citizens in this process – most hold public forums on water pollution, some publish articles in newspapers, and some hold community group meetings.

The important next step following the setting of new pollution limits and forming Tributary Action Teams is developing strategies for meeting the pollution limits. Each Tributary Action Team has the opportunity to write recommendations for a formal pollution control strategy that includes numerous voluntary and regulatory ways to reduce pollution levels.

The pollution control strategy (often abbreviated PCS) includes a combination of more than one pollution-reducing method and is tailored specifically for each watershed. Methods could include:

  • The removal of direct point-source discharges from waterways
  • Better management of fertilizer and manure
  • Replacement of failing septic systems with environmentally safer sewer systems
  • Protective agricultural practices such as the planting of vegetative buffer strips between cropland and waterways
  • Expanded levels of treatment of residential stormwater through the use of best management practices

Each Tributary Action Team decides which approaches would be most effective in its watershed based on extensive study, comments at citizen forums, advice from experts, and discussions at public team meetings. Find more specific information on current pollution control strategies and other watershed plans.

We need your help as we develop pollution control strategies for our watersheds. Learn how you can help protect our waters.

For more information on the watersheds where you work, live and play, check out the new website DNREC’s Watershed Assessment Section has partnered on with the University of Delaware: