BY: Jaylene Matias

Water quality and aquatic life in our lakes, rivers, streams, and estuaries are being negatively impacted by climate change in a variety of ways. Water quality is being harmed by more intense storms that alter rainfall patterns and quantities through runoff of contaminants like nitrogen. The formation of dangerous algal blooms in water—which can be poisonous to both humans and aquatic life—is made possible by warming temperatures.  Wildfires leave behind a loss of vegetation that increases the amount of toxic substances and dangerous metals that wash into streams when it rains. Additionally, during periods of heavy rainfall, wastewater treatment plants may overflow, polluting nearby waters.

In the United States, nutrient pollution is a severe and pervasive water quality issue that is getting worse due to climate change. Water bodies are becoming more polluted as a result of overflow of nitrogen and other contaminants during storms with a lot of precipitation.

The EPA is investigating the effects of climate change on water quality as part of its larger research activities on water quality in order to safeguard our essential water resources. Water quality managers now have access to new knowledge, resources, and tactics that will help them better prevent or lessen contamination.

Hazardous algal blooms in water are more likely to emerge as a result of climate change. Our bodies of water, streams, and beaches are suffering due to the environmental damage brought on by these poisonous blooms. When nitrogen and other nutrients are swept off land surfaces and into streams during storms, hazardous blooms result. Climate change-induced temperature increases may encourage HAB proliferation in aquatic environments. Research is being done to improve HAB monitoring and evaluation capabilities and to provide potential early indicators that might be utilized to recognize and predict sensitive water bodies.

Researchers are concentrating on the longer-term (e.g., multi-decadal) implications of climate change on the risk of HABs in various geographic and bio-physical settings, in addition to the study focused on the underlying processes of HABs and the short-term prediction of them. The study examines potential future changes in cyanobacterial HAB risk for inland lakes in the continental United States on a national scale using a qualitative evidence synthesis.

Extreme downpour events are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change, raising the possibility of fuel spills from underground storage tanks. The quality of the water, including the drinking water in towns, might be harmed by leaks from these tanks. In the past, there were 2.2 million underground storage tanks in the United States, spread across 800,000 sites, and six billion gallons of petroleum were kept there every day. In underprivileged areas, where many are located, leaking underground storage tanks constitute a bigger hardship. Research is concentrated on resolving the environmental justice issues of communities who are affected by excessive rainfall as part of a broader research focus on subsurface storage tanks. The study helps governments, tribes, and communities identify subsurface storage tanks that might be more susceptible to leakage during certain seasons.