2017 Progress Report: Prediction of Nonlinear Climate Variations Impacts on Eutrophication and Ecosystem Processes and Evaluation of Adaptation Measures in Urban and Urbanizing Watersheds

EPA Grant Number: R835866
Title: Prediction of Nonlinear Climate Variations Impacts on Eutrophication and Ecosystem Processes and Evaluation of Adaptation Measures in Urban and Urbanizing Watersheds
Investigators: Barber, Michael , Burian, Steven , Clark, Brett , Goel, Ramesh , Hinners, Sarah
Institution: University of Utah
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018 (Extended to August 31, 2020)
Project Period Covered by this Report: September 1, 2016 through August 31,2017
Project Amount: $1,250,000
RFA: National Priorities: Systems-Based Strategies to Improve The Nation’s Ability to Plan And Respond to Water Scarcity and Drought Due to Climate Change (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water



This project is specifically designed to investigate the direct and secondary interrelated impacts of climate change (including extreme events) on the quality and availability of surface and ground water in the Jordan River watershed for the protection of human and ecosystem health, and develop innovative, cost-effective management options that address these impacts. The following specific objectives will be addressed:

  1. Develop a dynamic water quantity/quality model of Jordan River watershed using Storm Water Management Model (SWMM), Distributed Hydrology Soil Vegetation Model (DHSVM), Environmental Fluid Dynamics Code (EFDC), and Water Quality Analysis Simulation Program (WASP)
  2. Link the process-based model of the Jordan River watershed to a system dynamics model of the integrated urban water system for the Salt Lake City metropolitan area
  3. Integrate each of the four AR5 climate projections into prediction of 2050 water quantity and quality baseline scenarios
  4. Conduct field and laboratory analysis to parameterize kinetic coefficients and determine non-linear responses under climate scenarios
  5. Examine land use planning implications including scale-related phenomenon related to headwater versus downstream economic, social, and ecosystem constraints
  6. Hold participatory stakeholder workshops to develop future scenarios related to conservation, reuse, land use changes due to population, best management practices (BMP)/low impact development (LID) implementation, wildfire disturbances, and water management
  7. Use models to examine impacts of scenarios and levels of investments needed to achieve a sustainable environment for economic and ecosystem protection
  8. Create a framework for maximizing value of BMP placement through off-site investment to achieve water quantity and quality goals
  9. Incorporate findings into classroom instruction that help prepare the future workforce in thinking holistically to solve tomorrow’s challenges.

We will continue to work closely with stakeholders across a broad spectrum to develop a comprehensive management tool that can evaluate water management strategies for the entire Jordan River watershed. Implementation of this comprehensive approach will guarantee scientifically defensible solutions that incorporate social and ecosystem needs and lead to a sustainable future.

Progress Summary:

Objectives 1 and 2:

Preliminary tasks for model development are in progress, including data accumulation from a number of agencies, facilities, and researchers as well as review of scientific literature. As part of this accumulation, for data that have been obtained we have begun the quality control and formatting process and currently are organizing the data within file databases and GIS databases. This process of data review has aided in identifying additional data needs (such as higher frequency measurements of water quality data near wastewater outflows), and the appropriate agencies have been contacted in order to obtain these data.

Objective 3:

Modeled precipitation data (at the daily scale) were obtained from gridded, downscaled Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models while the historical precipitation data (also at the daily scale) were obtained from NOAA and Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) weather stations. This evaluation found that the models greatly underestimated the precipitation amounts at locations in the non-urban, mountain watersheds, but generally performed well at locations at lower elevations (particularly near the south end of the Great Salt Lake and near Utah Lake).

Work thus far also indicates that precipitation data at the daily scale may warrant additional processing, such as statistical downscaling, in order to produce more accurate projections for areas within the project extent that are at higher elevations. A workflow using primarily R statistical software is complete, which will be used to accomplish the remaining tasks in this objective (once a final climate model has been selected).

Objective 4:

In 2017 additional samples were taken from Utah Lake surface water at seven sites from early May to late August. Much like in 2016, collected water samples were analyzed for temperature, pH, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), conductivity, and chlorophyll a (Chl a), nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (cBOD), and Total Organic Carbon (TOC). Genomic DNA also was extracted from all water samples and one set of sediment samples to genetically profile cyanobacteria. Additionally, samples were filtered and stored for cyanobacteria speciation and activity determination using advanced molecular tools. Molecular methods applied in this study included quantitative PCR and functional gene expressions using mRNA.

To determine cohesive bottom sediment erodibility, in situ field sampling and laboratory experiments were performed. Sediment cores were collected during late September. Cores were collected using clear plastic tubes with a diameter of 2.5 inches and were acquired by diving with scuba gear.

Objective 5:

Our collaborators on the modeling team at the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC), shared the business-as-usual scenario outputs with us to use in development of the water quality model.  Currently outputs are being translated into useable inputs to the Storm Water Management Model (SWMM). Through summarizing the hydrologic units, the SWMM team was provided with spatial representations of both current and future land use that can be used to generate estimates of impervious surface and other key parameters.

It was decided that the ET+ scenario planning software would be replaced with UrbanSim modeling framework, which is more effective at the regional scale. Working with the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ), we are developing a situation assessment for both Utah Lake and Jordan River stakeholder groups.

Objective 7:

This work has not started yet.

Objective 8:

This work has not started yet

Objective 9:

A water quality modeling class was offered in Spring 2017 incorporating lessons learned from the grant projects to develop case studies. The final class project involved modeling water quality (DO and BOD) in the lower Provo River as a result of modifications to flow proposed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Future Activities:

Process-based Modeling

The following tasks are planned for the Jordan River models using Water Quality Analysis Simulation Program (WASP 8) and then for dynamic simulations:

- Investigate the factors that contribute to the increase in the dissolved oxygen concentrations over time and over distance along the Jordan River.
- Compare the results of the WASP models for different water quality constituents with those from Qual2K and apply similar time steps for output between both WASP and Qual2K for easier comparisons.
- Apply the sensitivity analysis by altering a particular parameter that applies to all Jordan River segments to evaluate the change in results for different water quality constituents. Determine the top parameters that appear to exhibit the most significant impact upon the results for the water quality constituents.
- Develop example scenarios for the Utah Lake model that requires EFDC hydrodynamic linkage using WASP 8 to estimate time required to simulate Utah Lake and evaluate results for different water quality constituents.
- Implement the calibrated Jordan River models toward the dynamic simulations based on the scenarios to-be-developed by the EPA Project, which incorporates results from different models (e.g., GoldSim, SWMM, EFDC, etc.) and requires different climate, land use, and population scenarios.

DHSVM activities:
- Process a soil map for the study area and land cover map from Landsat 8.

Process-based modeling activities:
- Collect, clean, and process meteorological data in time series format for watersheds.
- Calibrate and validate the model so that it can be used to predict future water quantity and quality (stream temperature) under different climate change scenarios.
- Downscale climate data for future time period.

EFDC activities:
- Update 2005 model to 2015-16 conditions.
- Conduct sensitivity analysis.
- Identify critical data gaps.

Systems Modeling

- Obtain streamflow data to calibrate and validate the urban stormwater processes.
- Determine appropriate land-use characteristics for future scenarios.
- Add wastewater treatment loading information to the urban systems model. 

Field and Laboratory Measurements:
- Conduct sediment core analysis for P speciation, sediment grain size distribution, shear strength, P sediment and sorption kinetics and sediment mineralogy.
- Conduct cyanobacterial speciation using high throughput DNA sequencing.
- Evaluate temperature dependent kinetics of one algal species, Aphanizomenon flos-aquaea and microcystis spp.
- Investigate mRNA based functional gene expression of toxin producing genes.
- Investigate nitrification and denitrification kinetics in sediments.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 9 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

nutrients, sediment oxygen demand, integrated assessment, conservation, reuse, socio-economic, public policy

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2018 Progress Report