tD S7/|.	14-P-0348
*  *	U.S. Environmental Protection Agency	September 3,2014
Office of Inspector General
At a Glance
Why We Did This Review
We sought to determine steps the
U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and states in the
Mississippi River Watershed are
taking to reduce nutrients that
contribute to the Gulf of Mexico
hypoxic zone.
Hypoxia is the term used to
describe an area with low oxygen,
which results in conditions adverse
to most aquatic life. The hypoxic
zone in the Gulf of Mexico forms
every summer as a result of excess
nutrients that flow from the 31
states and two Canadian provinces
of the Mississippi-Atchafalaya
River Basin (MARB), and seasonal
stratification of gulf waters. The
5-year average size of the hypoxic
zone is largely unchanged since
1994, at approximately 15,000
square kilometers. According to the
United States Geological Survey,
agricultural sources contribute
more than 70 percent of the
nutrients that enter the Gulf of
Mexico, and an estimated
11.6 million metric tons of nitrogen
are added to the MARB each year.
This report addresses the
following EPA goals or
cross-agency strategies:
	Protecting America's waters.
	Launching a new era of state,
tribal, local and international
Send all inquiries to our public
affairs office at (202) 566-2391
or visit
The full report is at:
Nutrient Pollution: EPA Needs to Work With
States to Develop Strategies for Monitoring the
Impact of State Activities on the Gulf of Mexico
Hypoxic Zone
What We Found
The EPA is working to reduce the size of the
Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone principally by
encouraging states to develop and implement
nutrient reduction strategies. This approach
has some promising aspects that may result in
positive effects to local waterways. States
have developed partnerships and have
identified priority watersheds.
At the time of our review in early 2014, most of the MARB states had not
completed nutrient reduction strategies. In addition, few of the states in
our sample had committed to specific reduction targets or timelines. Some
states have expressed concern over their limited ability to monitor water
quality and measure the progress of the strategies. Without this
information, the EPA will be unable to determine the level of progress
toward achieving basin-wide pollution reduction goals.
Recommendation and Planned Agency Corrective Actions
We recommend that the Assistant Administrator for Water work with state
and federal Task Force members in the Mississippi River Watershed to
develop and enhance monitoring and assessment systems that will track
the environmental results of state nutrient reduction activities, including
their contribution to reducing the size of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone.
The Office of Water agreed with our recommendation and presented
acceptable corrective actions that address it. This recommendation is
resolved based on the EPA's response and a subsequent meeting to
discuss the Office of Water comments.
The EPA lacks
necessary data to
determine the impact
of state nutrient
reduction strategies
on the Gulf of Mexico
hypoxic zone.