5th UF Water Institute Symposium Abstract

Submitter's Name Chelsea Smith
Session Name Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Water Availability and Quality
Author(s) Chelsea Smith,  J.W. Jones Ecological Research Center (Presenting Author)
  Steve Golladay,  J.W. Jones Ecological Research Center
  Water Quality Changes in the Face of Increased Variability: How Floods and Droughts Affect Not Only the Quantity but Quality of Water
  The quality and availability of water has become a growing concern within the Southeast in the last fifteen years as multiple multi-year droughts have occurred. Future climate predictions are unclear on precipitation changes; however increases in temperature are predicted, especially during the summer months. Within southwest Georgia these increased summer temperatures coupled with human water use will likely increase the strain on water quantity and quality in the area. Since 1994, water quality measures have been taken monthly across three adjacent coastal plain streams in Southwest Georgia. These samples include normal annual hydrologic variation, floods and multiple droughts. Comparisons across watersheds revealed that one tended to have higher DOC and higher alkalinity levels. This is likely the result of extensive wetland areas within this watershed as well as the importance of the underlying Floridan aquifer to this system. This watershed also generally showed a greater change in water quality between drought and normal conditions. DOC or SRP were higher in flood years as compared to normal and drought years. Ammonium levels decreased as conditions became drier while nitrate increased. Much of the changes in water quality observed are the result of a disconnection from the surrounding flood plain. The effect of drought on water quality is not solely the product of changes in water quantity but also the connection to the surrounding land. A compounding factor during these extended droughts could be further alteration to previously inaccessible land (i.e. stream side areas and isolated wetlands). Knowing how water quality could be altered with increased droughts will be important in predicting the impact on organisms within streams in addition to reduced water levels.