Success Stories: Upper Marshyhope Creek

The Delaware portion of the Marshyhope Creek watershed (Upper Marshyhope Creek) lies within Kent and Sussex counties on the western edge of Delaware. The creek flows into Maryland before eventually discharging into the Nanticoke River, which in turn empties into the Chesapeake Bay. The drainage area of the Marshyhope Creek watershed within Delaware is approximately 250 square kilometers.


NPS pollution, including discharges from failing septic systems and nutrient pollution in agricultural runoff, contributed to elevated bacteria counts in Upper Marshyhope Creek. As a result, DNREC added a 19.7-mile segment of Marshyhope Creek to the state’s 303(d) List for bacteria. Stakeholders implemented agricultural BMPs and worked with the local agricultural community to develop nutrient management plans which led to water quality improvements. Upper Marshyhope Creek now meets state standards for bacteria, prompting DNREC to remove the creek from the state’s 303(d) List in 2008.


NPS pollution from agricultural areas and failing and unmaintained septic systems led to elevated bacteria counts in Upper Marshyhope Creek.

The data from the Upper Marshyhope Creek, including data from two distinct General Assessment Monitoring Network sample collection stations, showed that water samples were routinely exceeding Delaware’s water quality standard for bacteria. These data showed that the waterbody was failing to support its primary contact recreation designated use. A TMDL was developed for bacteria and approved in 2006.


The Sussex Conservation District provided technical assistance to the local farming community by providing nutrient management planning and cost-share funding for agricultural BMPs.

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation plans and Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts were developed

Poultry Farm

  • 11 manure storage sheds installed
  • 6 composters installed
  • 1 incinerator installed
  • 42 heavy-use protection pads installed

Dairy Farm

  • Liquid animal waste system installed
  • Heavy-use protection pad installed

Horse Farm

  • Manure storage sheds installed

Goat Farm

  • Manure storage sheds installed

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program BMPs:

  • 172 acres of hardwood trees enrolled in the land retirement program
  • 51 acres of vegetation for wildlife support planted
  • 117 acres of grassed filter strips installed
  • 6.5 acres of wetlands restored

Farmers plant an estimated 1,100 acres of cover crops in the Marshyhope Creek watershed annually.

An average of 750 tons of poultry manure are transported from the watershed annually.


Monitoring data collected between April 2003 and April 2008 (a total of 167 samples) showed a geometric mean of 89 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters. This is below Delaware’s freshwater bacteria water quality standard. As a result, DNREC removed the 19.7-mile segment of Marshyhope Creek (DE-200-001) from the state’s 303(d) List in 2008. The creek now fully supports its primary contact recreation designated use. Continued monitoring will ensure that it continues to meet water quality standards.

Partners and Funding

  • Clean Water Act Section 319 funds
  • Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program ~ $112,185
  • Delaware Conservation Cost Share Program ~ $49,500
  • Delaware Department of Agriculture ~$3,240
  • Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
  • Delaware Nonpoint Source Program
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program/Cost share funds ~ $906,446
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Sussex Conservation District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency