From Category 4B to Category 2: How Local Stakeholders in the Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium Battled Nutrient Pollution to Improve the Bay

Regulating the discharge of nutrients such as nitrogen has proven a difficult and complex task for both state and federal environmental regulators. Nitrogenā€rich runoff emanates from agricultural operations, stormwater, and other nonpoint sources, making it difficult to control using conventional forms of regulation governing point sources of pollution. But the participants in the Tampa Bay Estuary Program’s Nitrogen Management Consortium have worked within the contours of federal and state law to regulate nitrogen pollution at the local level on a voluntary basis by engaging stakeholders and regulators in a collaborative and participatory process by which public and private participants agree to limit their nitrogen discharges in accordance with a plan drafted by the participants and submitted to state regulators once every five years. The plans also include methodology for monitoring water quality in Tampa Bay. This program has contributed significantly to a drastic improvement in water quality in Tampa Bay over the last decades as formerly depleted seagrass acreage has been restored dramatically, showcasing the promise of local, stakeholderā€driven regulatory programs to reduce pollution and improve environmental conditions.