A Water Quality Model for Regional Stream Assessment and Conservation Strategy Development
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- Meixler, M.S. & Bain, M.B. Environmental Management (2010) 45: 868. doi:10.1007/s00267-010-9453-y
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Non-point-source (NPS) pollution remains the primary source of stream impairment in the United States. Many problems such as eutrophication, sedimentation, and hypoxia are linked with NPS pollution which reduces the water quality for aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Increasingly, NPS pollution models have been used for landscape-scale pollution assessment and conservation strategy development. Our modeling approach functions at a scale between simple landscape-level assessments and complex, data-intensive modeling by providing a rapid, landscape-scale geographic information system (GIS) model with minimal data requirements and widespread applicability. Our model relies on curve numbers, literature-derived pollution concentrations, and land status to evaluate total phosphorus (TP), total nitrogen (TN), and suspended solids (SS) at the reach scale. Model testing in the Chesapeake Bay watershed indicated that predicted distributions of water quality classes were realistic at the reach scale, but precise estimates of pollution concentrations at the local scale can have errors. Application of our model in the tributary watersheds along Lake Ontario suggested that it is useful to managers in watershed planning by rapidly providing important information about NPS pollution conditions in areas where large data gaps exist, comparisons among stream reaches across numerous watersheds are required, or regional assessments are sought.