Poquoson River is a tidal coastal embayment located along the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay about 4 km south of the York River mouth in the City of Poquoson and in York County, Virginia. Its drainage area has diversified land uses, including high densities of residence, agricultural, salt marsh land uses, as well as a National Wildlife Refuge. This embayment experiences elevated bacterial concentration due to excess bacterial inputs from storm water runoff, nonpoint sources, and wash off from marshes due to tide and wind-induced set-up and set-down. Bacteria can also grow in the marsh and small tributaries. It is difficult to use a traditional watershed model to simulate bacterial loading, especially in this low-lying marsh area with abundant wildlife, while runoff is not solely driven by precipitation. An inverse approach is introduced to estimate loading from unknown sources based on observations in the embayment. The estimated loadings were combined with loadings estimated from different sources (human, wildlife, agriculture, pets, etc.) and input to the watershed model. The watershed model simulated long-term flow and bacterial loading and discharged to a three-dimensional transport model driven by tide, wind, and freshwater discharge. The transport model efficiently simulates the transport and fate of the bacterial concentration in the embayment and is capable of determining the loading reduction needed to improve the water quality condition of the embayment. Combining inverse, watershed, and transport models is a sound approach for simulating bacterial transport correctly in the coastal embayment with complex unknown bacterial sources, which are not solely driven by precipitation.
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