Abstract for: Towards a shared understanding of nutrient pollution in Cape Cod's coastal waters

Increasing population and economic development around coastal areas have left many embayments throughout the world severely impaired. Excessive nutrient enrichment in water bodies, also known as nutrient pollution, is one of the leading impairments in coastal waters. Algal blooms, dead zones, and fish kills are spreading because of the nutrient pollution. This paper presents a systems analysis of the nutrient pollution problem in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where the continuous degradation in coastal waters is considered as one of the greatest threats to the region's environmental and economic future. A system dynamics model was created with a diverse stakeholder team to uncover the underlying system structure that has created the degradation in Cape Cod's coastal waters since 1960s. An important goal of this work was to support the development of a regional water quality management plan by creating a shared understanding of the nutrient pollution problem across a wide range of stakeholders including residents, local municipalities, regional authorities, the state government, and the U.S EPA. The proposed model and simulation experiments reveal several critical insights, including nonlinearity of the system behavior, delay in the system's response to interventions, and the importance of timely actions.