Unverifiable Stream Water Quality Models: Believe it or Not!

Islam MMM, Iqbal MS, Leemans R, Hofstra N. Modelling the impact of future socio-economic and climate change scenarios on river microbial water quality. International journal of hygiene and environmental health. 2017 Dec 4. pii: S1438-4639(17)30408-X. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2017.11.006.

Microbial surface water quality is important, as it is related to health risk when the population is exposed through drinking, recreation or consumption of irrigated vegetables. The microbial surface water quality is expected to change with socio-economic development and climate change. This study explores the combined impacts of future socio-economic and climate change scenarios on microbial water quality using a coupled hydrodynamic and water quality model (MIKE21FM-ECOLab). The model was applied to simulate the baseline (2014-2015) and future (2040s and 2090s) faecal indicator bacteria (FIB: E. coli and enterococci) concentrations in the Betna river in Bangladesh. The scenarios comprise changes in socio-economic variables (e.g. population, urbanization, land use, sanitation and sewage treatment) and climate variables (temperature, precipitation and sea-level rise). Scenarios have been developed building on the most recent Shared Socio-economic Pathways: SSP1 and SSP3 and Representative Concentration Pathways: RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 in a matrix. An uncontrolled future results in a deterioration of the microbial water quality (+75% by the 2090s) due to socio-economic changes, such as higher population growth, and changes in rainfall patterns. However, microbial water quality improves under a sustainable scenario with improved sewage treatment (-98% by the 2090s). Contaminant loads were more influenced by changes in socio-economic factors than by climatic change. To our knowledge, this is the first study that combines climate change and socio-economic development scenarios to simulate the future microbial water quality of a river. This approach can also be used to assess future consequences for health risks.

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