Addressing total phosphorus impairments with water quality trading

Christopher C. Obropta, Gregory M. Rusciano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Water quality trading is a voluntary economic process that provides an opportunity for dischargers to reduce the costs associated with meeting a discharge limitation. Trading can provide a cost effective solution for point sources (i.e., wastewater treatment plants) to meet strict effluent limitations set in response to total maximum daily loads (TMDLs). A successful trading program often depends on first determining the trading suitability of a pollutant for a particular watershed. A simple technical approach has been developed to identify subwatersheds within the Raritan River Basin, New Jersey, where water quality trading could provide a cost effective and scientifically feasible method for addressing total phosphorus impairments. The methodology presented will serve as a model to conduct similar analyses in other watersheds. The Raritan River Basin was divided into 12 subwatershed-based study areas. Point-nonpoint source trading opportunities were examined for each study area by examining the point and nonpoint source total phosphorus loading to impaired water bodies. Of the 12 subwatersheds examined, four had a high potential for implementing a successful trading program. Since instream phosphorus concentrations are closely related to soil erosion, an additional analysis was performed to examine soil erodibility. Recommendations are presented for conducting an economic analysis following the feasibility study. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) (

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1297-1306
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


  • Nonpoint source pollution
  • Nutrients
  • Point source pollution
  • Rivers/streams
  • Surface water
  • Total maximum daily load
  • Water quality
  • Water quality trading

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