Author(s): Interlandi SJ, Crockett CS
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Abstract Climate, flow rate and land use are all known drivers of water quality in river systems, but determining the relative influences of these factors remains a significant challenge for aquatic science and management. Long-term data from the Schuylkill River at Philadelphia is assessed here in an attempt to ascertain the separate and combined influence of these major drivers on water quality in a developed watershed. Water quality measures including nutrients, conservative solutes and bacteria all elicited distinct seasonal patterns driven primarily by river discharge. Mass transport rates of sodium and chloride have increased with time, and were elevated in winter, presumably as a function of road salt deposition. A steady increase in developed land area in the watershed has occurred in recent decades, which allowed the use of time as a surrogate parameter for regional development in the construction of multiple factor linear models predicting the relative influences of precipitation, river discharge and developed land area on river water quality. Linear models predicting annually averaged water quality measures showed the effects of precipitation, discharge and developed land area to be of nearly equal importance in regulating levels of conductivity, alkalinity, sodium, and chloride in the river. Models predicting water quality variables for discrete samples demonstrated that river flow was the major determinant of daily variability in alkalinity, conductivity, hardness and calcium levels, while still resolving the highly significant influence of watershed development on water quality. Increases in solute transport in the Schuylkill River in recent decades appear to be the direct result of modern suburban development in the watershed.
This article was published in Water Res
and referenced in Hydrology: Current Research