Methods in Environmental Science May 11, 2012ES 100
Final Thesis ProposalTitle
Renewing Urban Streams with Recycled Water: Evaluating the Effects of Tertiary TreatedWastewater on Freshwater Biodiversity
This study investigates the effects of treated wastewater discharge on its surroundingecosystems, specifically focusing on Calera Creek Water Recycling Plant, in Pacifica, California.The facility was established in 2000, and has been discharging treated wastewater into CaleraCreek intended for habitat enhancement. The project will examine the benthic macroinvertebratecommunities as biological indicators of water quality. These collections will be done at the samesampling sites where long-term, water-quality measurements are being taken quarterly. Standardmetrics of ecological structure and function based on the macroinvertebrate community data willbe used to quantify potential impacts to freshwater biodiversity achieved by the discharge, andthey will be examined in the light of the accompanying water-quality data that is available.
Mediterranean climates are characterized by wet winters and dry summers and many streams inthis region experience seasonal dryness (Lawrence et al. 2010). Many freshwater organismshave life cycles that are adapted to seasonal dryness, such as dormancy during dry period of theyear (Karr 1981, Merritt and Cummins 1984). Within a river system, there are natural flowtrends that are observed and associated with certain ecological settings. As one flowsdownstream, species traits (e.g., physical characteristics, behavior, feeding mechanism, etc)fluctuate in relation with hydrological variability (Poff 1995) as well as substrate material(Sarriquet 2007). Considering the relationships between organisms and their environment, onecan make inferences about the quality of a freshwater habitat by surveying the composition of itsinhabitants.Amongst freshwater organisms, benthic macroinvertebrates (BMI) are conventionally referencedfor assessment of water quality. BMI are appropriate biological indicators because they areubiquitous, with large number of species and spectrum of responses to disturbances (Resh 1996).Specifically, three orders of BMI are particularly sensitive (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera,andTrichoptera) which has led to the establishment of the EPT
index −a metrics for interpreting
water quality (Resh 1996). Composition of BMI taxa, based on various tolerance levels andrelationships to sediment, is a standardized metric that is supported by extensive literature(Cummins 1964, Merritt and Cummins 1984).Stream conditions in urban areas are exacerbated by human land-use practices and climatechange, such as urban infrastructure development, water withdrawals, and rising temperatures.River restoration efforts are made to reinstate flows to improve instream conditions. However,many of these attempts are primarily focused on the site physiology (e.g., stream width, bank depth, flow velocity, etc) rather than the water source (Hultine and Bush 2011, Jun and Kim