Impact of climate change on water quality of an impaired New Mexico river

TitleImpact of climate change on water quality of an impaired New Mexico river
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsElias E, James D, Rango A, Steele C, Smith R, Mejia J
Conference NameNew Mexico Water Conference
Date Published10/2015
Conference LocationTaos, NM
ARIS Log Number324085
Abstract

Climate change is predicted to advance runoff timing in snowmelt basins and decrease available water, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions. Researchers have suggested that the impacts of climate change will degrade water quality by reducing dilution. We use coupled snowmelt and water quality models to quantify the impacts of climate change on the Chama River, a New Mexico waterbody presently impaired to temperature, nutrients and pathogens. We use the Snowmelt Runoff Model and downscaled temperature and precipitation to simulate the impacts of a statistically selected range of future climate conditions (warmer/wetter; warmer/drier; hotter/wetter; hotter/drier) on streamflow. SRM streamflow for base and future scenarios is coupled with a water quality model (LOADEST) to evaluate the impacts of climate change on water quality. There is a shift in timing of the delivery of water quality loads with more early small peaks during autumn and winter and an earlier and lower peak in snow melt runoff loads. The impacts of climate change vary by hydrograph phase, with higher loads during baseflow, particularly for the hotter/wetter simulation, but lower loads during snowmelt runoff for all parameters. Water quality responses vary by parameter and year, indicating a range of impacts of climate change on water quality which should be evaluated separately for each parameter. Abstract #40.