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Climate Change Impact on Water Quality in USA

Weiqiu Zhang1,Ya-Mei Yang2, Athanasios Karamalidis1


Mellon University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
2National Energy Technology Laboratory , Pittsburgh, PA



This project aims to investigate the effects of climate change on
the quality of surface water in USA. For this project, we
considered the major climate parameters contributing to change
of water quality, i.e. the annual average air temperature and
annual total precipitation. For the surface water, the study
considered the quality parameters of water: temperature, pH,
dissolved oxygen (DO), conductivity, suspended sediment (SS),
turbidity, chlorophyll, salinity, total nitrogen, nitrate (NO3-) and
nitrite (NO2-), ammonia and organic nitrogen, phosphorus,
dissolved organic matter (DOM), and sodium. The period for
which analysis of the change of the trend for those water quality
parameters took place was 1944-2013. The statistical tool, “R”,
was employed for the data analysis.

Observed higher temperatures over several decades has been
linked to changes in the large-scale hydrological cycle. Higher
water temperatures and changes in extremes, including floods and
droughts, are projected to affect water quality and exacerbate
many forms of water pollution, with possible negative impacts on
ecosystems, human health, and water system reliability and
operating costs.

Several gaps in knowledge exist in terms of observations and
research needs related to climate change and water quality.
Observational data and data access are prerequisites for adaptive
management, yet many observational networks are shrinking.
There is a need to improve understanding of the climate change
impact on water quality.

Trends of change for each parameter
Data not collected

No significant change

Map Code


Trends Test Code

 Determine the trends of climate change parameters in USA
 Determine the trends of water quality parameters in USA
 Determine the climate change impact on water quality

 The climate factors and water quality parameters exhibit significant change in
trends for the period 1944-2013.

Changes in Air Temperature and precipitation exhibit similar trends to Water Temperature, pH,
Conductivity, Suspended sediment, Turbidity, Chlorophyll. They are opposite to DO, N。trends.

Future Work
 Collect more data to analyze the climate and water
quality change trends.
 Find the relationship between climate change
factors and water quality parameters for every state
in USA.
 Investigate the water quality change impact on the
urbane infrastructure.

We thank the CEE Summer
Intern Program 2014 for
funding this project.