High-frequency measurements reveal spatial and temporal patterns of dissolved organic matter in an urban water conveyance

Abstract

Stormwater runoff in urban areas can contribute high concentrations of dissolved organic matter (DOM) to receiving waters, potentially causing impairment to the aquatic ecosystem of urban streams and downstream water bodies. Compositional changes in DOM due to storm events in forested, agricultural, and urban landscapes have been well studied, but in situ sensors have not been widely applied to monitor stormwater contributions in urbanized areas, leaving the spatial and temporal characteristics of DOM within these systems poorly understood. We deployed fluorescent DOM (FDOM) sensors at upstream and downstream locations within a study reach to characterize the spatial and temporal changes in DOM quantity and sources within an urban water conveyance that receives stormwater runoff. Baseflow FDOM decreased over the summer season as seasonal flows upstream transported less DOM. FDOM fluctuated diurnally, the amplitude of which also declined as the summer season progressed. During storms, FDOM concentrations were rapidly elevated to values orders of magnitude greater than baseflow measurements, with greater concentrations at the downstream monitoring site, revealing high contributions from stormwater outfalls between the two locations. Observations from custom, in situ fluorometers resembled results obtained using laboratory methods for identifying DOM source material and indicated that DOM transitioned to a more microbially derived composition as the summer season progressed, while stormwater contributions contributed DOM from terrestrial sources. Deployment of a mobile sensing platform during varying flow conditions captured spatial changes in DOM concentration and composition and revealed contributions of DOM from outfalls during stormflows that would have otherwise been unobserved.

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Funding

This work was supported by funding from the Utah Water Research Laboratory at Utah State University and from the US National Science Foundation under EPSCoR grant IIA-1208732 awarded to Utah State University as part of the State of Utah EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Bryce A. Mihalevich.

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Mihalevich, B.A., Horsburgh, J.S. & Melcher, A.A. High-frequency measurements reveal spatial and temporal patterns of dissolved organic matter in an urban water conveyance. Environ Monit Assess 189, 593 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-017-6310-y

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Keywords

  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Urban
  • Stormwater
  • In situ
  • Fluorescence
  • Water quality