Using a Freshwater Provisioning Index as a Water Management Tool

by Chloe Soltis

The majority of the world uses upstream water as its main resource for freshwater. Yet, pollution issues that result primarily from economic development continuously threaten these freshwater sources. Industrialized countries have the financial capital to engineer and build infrastructure such as dams and water treatment facilities to alleviate these issues. Developing countries do not have the means to build the same traditional infrastructure and therefore can struggle with proper water management. Green et al. (2015) realized the need for an integrated water management approach that accounted for different levels of social and economic development and decided to develop the freshwater provisioning index (FPIh). This index measures the amount of upstream freshwater resources available to the human populations living downstream while also taking into account global water source threats. Continue reading

Micro-Plastic Pollution in the Great Lakes


by Emil Morhardt

Here’s a follow-on to our August 21 post on plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. I know that this is unrelated to climate change, but the Climate Vulture is also interested in other environmental issues. Eriksen et al. (all associated with 5 Gyres Institute in Los Angeles in addition, in some cases, to their day jobs), are intent on tracking plastic pollution globally. This paper looks at the American Great Lakes, and consisted of a survey cruise across lakes Erie, Huron, and Superior in July 2012, towing a net for an hour at each of 21 sites. All but one sample were contaminated with micro-plastic debris, but with more than 90% of the plastic collected in Lake Erie off Buffalo and Cleveland. The average abundance was over 43,000 plastic particles per square kilometer (the densest samples had ten times this much), plus a lot of coal and fly ash particles, presumably from the many coal-fired power plants surrounding the lakes. Much of the debris consisted of multi-colored spherical micro-beads on the order of a third of a millimeter in diameter. Many of the potential sources such as sandblasting media were ruled out because Continue reading

High Leachate Pollution at Indian Landfill Sites


by Hilary Haskell

India currently lacks an institutionalized municipal solid waste system and open landfill dumping proceeds without regulation, although an existing legal framework could be used to address this societal and environmental issue. A number of causes, both civilian and political, are at fault. Reliance on unregulated landfill dumping will likely continue, as this solid waste management practice tends to be the most cost-effective. However, landfills in India do not reflect the typical sanitary landfill seen in much of the developed world, lacking linings or covers that prevent groundwater pollution. Leachate liquid seepage generated by landfills due to rainwater or other infiltration pollutes groundwater. The extent of pollution depends on the permeability of landfills, distance to water table, and toxicity of the leachate. Bhalla et al. (2014) used data from the Ludhiana City, Punjab, municipal landfill site in India and the Leachate Pollution Index to determine Continue reading

Heavy Metal Contamination from Domestic Wastewater in Tropical Lagoon Sediments


This study by Fujita et al. (2014) investigates the contamination of heavy metals in the sediments of a tropical lagoon in Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu. Sediment samples were analyzed from densely populated, sparsely populated, open dumping, and undisturbed sites along the islet. The highest concentrations of heavy metals and acid-volatile sulfates were found at the densely populated sites, where poorly constructed sanitary facilities are the cause of marine pollution due to domestic wastewater leakage. The currents were examined in order to see if they might have a role in the dispersal of heavy metals in the lagoon. Sediment samples were analyzed to measure acid-volatile sulfides, contamination factor, and pollution load index, and were analyzed using principal components analysis. Results showed that various types of grey wastewater were the primary source of contamination by heavy metals such as chromium, zinc, copper, lead, and cadmium. Manganese and nickel were found in higher concentrations at the open dumping site, supporting the idea that these contaminants are likely a result of disposed batteries. The prevalence of sanitary facilities and dumping sites such as the ones found on Funafuti across atolls in the Central and South Pacific poses significant ecological threats to the coastal sediment and coral reef environments that they support, as well as threats to human health and the availability of food resources.–Submitted by Dawn Barlow

Fujita, M., Ide, Y., Sato, D., Kench, P.S., Kuwahara, Y., Yokoki, H., Kayanne, H., 2014. Heavy metal contamination of coastal lagoon sediments: Fongafale Islet, Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu. Chemosphere 95, 628 –634. Continue reading

Coastal Bacteria and Stormwater Runoff

The significant health issues correlated with urban stormwater runoff discharged into coastal waters is of prominent concern within the Orange County coastal zone of southern California because it is one of the most developed areas in the United States, and consequently, it produces some of the most highly polluted runoff. This study focuses on the improvements observed within Huntington and Newport beaches, since they have an unfortunate history of human illness related to their contaminated waters. A study by Given (2006) et al.,revealed the unhealthy effect these waters had on more than five million people who swam at the two beaches from 1998 to 2000—it showed record of about 36,000 cases of stomach ailment and 38,000 cases of respiratory, eye and ear infections caused by exposure to the polluted waters. Fortunately, water conditions within the area have displayed improvement. An initial increase of fecal bacteria concentrations was observed between the years of 2000 to 2005 (indicating poor water quality); however, bacteriological concentrations decreased during the period between 2005 and 2010 (indicating improved water quality). Lim and Jeong (2012) discovered that the stormwater runoff from the surrounding urban watershed is a primary source of fecal pollution in Orange County Beaches, so they inquired that efforts to improve water quality and protect beach-goers from pollution will likely have greater efficacy during wet weather periods than any other time of year. In addition, the study identified the effect of alongshore surf zone current on fecal pollution caused by coastal waves; moreover, their analysis elucidated methods to improve public health protection through management that is in compliance with coastal water quality standards.—Genevieve Heger
Lim, S., Jeong, Y. 2012. Decadal Trend of Coastal Water Quality in Orange County Beaches and Management Efficacy at Improving Public Health Protection. Journal of Environmental Science and Engineering A. 1: 967-979

Lim and Jeong conducted an extensive study of the water quality conditions at Huntington and Newport beaches. The site was divided into four stations (two per beach), and each was analyzed for concentrations of fecal indicating bacteria(FIB)–total coliform (TC), fecal coliform (FC), and enterococci bacteria (ENT)–between the decade of 2000 to 2010. The bacteriological data was analyzed using a defined substrate test known as IDEXX Colilert-18, and Enterolert. Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOF) analyses in addition to periodogram analyses (using Matlab computer program) were also carried out for each of the three FIB. The precipitation records for the local area were obtained from a rain gauge at John Wayne Airport in the City of Santa Ana, which is approximately 23 kilometers northeast of the study site. Lifeguards kept record of wave conditions, including both direction and height of breaking waves (twice per day, once at 7:00 and again at 14:00 local time).
Lim and Jeong concluded that TC concentrations were significantly correlated with rainfall, while FC and ENT concentrations were somewhat correlated. It was also observed that all FIB concentrations were above average during the January-February-March period (i.e. winter months), which is when most rain falls in southern California. This observations correlates with their discovery that the coastal area exhibits an annual return period. Lastly, they found through observation of wave conditions, that contaminants are transported parallel to shore by wave-driven currents, in a direction (upcoast or downcoast) controlled by the approaching wave field. Lim and Jeong’s discoveries suggest a prospect for further water quality improvement.
Given, S, Pendleton, L.H., Boehm, A.B.  2006. Regional public health cost estimates of contaminated coastal waters: A case study of gastroenteritis at southern California beaches, Environmental Science and Technology. 40: 4851-4858.

Fecal Bacteria off Southern California Beaches

Semenza (2012) et al. found that the concentrations of fecal bacteria in the waters off the coast of  coast of three major counties  (Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and San Diego) in Southern California have a direct correlation to the intensity of rain events in the surrounding areas. Higher concentrations of bacteria are observed after higher intensity rainfalls have occurred. In light of this correlation, it was predicted that disease burdens, such as gastrointestinal illness, skin, ear, eye, and nose infections, due to the high levels of fecal bacteria concentration in the water (as a result of large amounts of discharged unfiltered urban stromwater runoff) may decrease because of ongoing climates changes that project hotter and drier weather conditions. Less rain would imply less runoff, which should result in lower concentrations of bacteria and lower risk of disease. Despite the projected decline in rainfall, by 416%, it is still unclear how certain the disease burden is predicted to decrease since chances of high variability are recorded for future weather patterns.—Genevieve Heger

                  Semenza, J. C., Caplan, J. S., Buescher, G., Das, T., Brinks, M. V., Gershunov, A. 2012. Climate Change and Microbiological Water Quality at California Beaches. EcoHealth 9, 293–297
                  Semenza et. al derived a linear model of microbiological water contamination (mean Enterococcusconcentrations) for 78 southern California beaches using Enterococcus and precipitation data. Data collected between 20002004 were used for estimations, and data from 2005 were used as validation. Enterococcusdata from Brinks et al. 2008 were also used. Predictions for future Enterococcuswater contamination levels were determined after projected precipitation levels were derived from the CNRM CM3 global climate model under the SRESA2 ‘business-as-usual’ scenario (IPCC 2007), which was downscaled for Huntington Beach using bias-corrected constructed analogues (BCCA). The annual means for projected Enterococcus levels were computed and the data were grouped by decade for the twenty-first century. Disease burden, as a result of projected contamination levels, were modeled according to two published dose–response relationships.
                  Precipitation was significantly related to measured Enterococcusconcentration between 2000-2004. A projected decrease in precipitation levels by 416% suggest that a relative decrease in coastal water contamination may occur, which provides a positive implication for infectious disease burden among recreational water users. However, due to the large variance in the empirical water quality and projected precipitation data, and differences in the dose response curves, we concluded that it is currently difficult to accurately predict disease burden.
Brinks MV, Dwight RH, Osgood ND, Sharavanakumar G, Turbow DJ, El-Gohary M, et al. (2008) Health risk of bathing in southern California coastal waters. Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health 63(3):123–135

Dune Infiltration Systems for Reducing Stormwater Discharge to Coastal Recreational Beaches

The present issues related to untreated stormwater are significant and must be taken seriously, not only for the sake of aquatic ecosystems where this polluted water is discharged, but also for the sake of human health. After a rainfall, the concentration of fecal bacteria entering coastal waters, as a result of unfiltered discharged runoff, often exceeds the state and federal bacteria limits that are considered safe for human contact; and unfortunately, everyday beach-goers are ignoring the eminent health threats that these waters pose. Direct human contact with the stormwater or the area that receives its discharge can lead to symptoms of gastrointestinal, respiratory, ear, eye, nose and skin infections; yet, contact with discharging stormwater still occurs, despite visible warnings.  Previous studies have shown success capturing bacteria from stormwater using sand filters, so Burchell and his colleagues (2012) arranged the idea of a Dune Infiltration System (DIS) to divert stormwater from existing pipes and into dunes, where the water can be filtered through sand and ground water before it is discharged to the coastal waters. They constructed three DISs in Kure Beach, North Carolina for demonstrational study, and found that the performance of these systems was more successful than expected and that they are a low-cost and low-tech solution for diminishing stormwater discharge and associated fecal bacteria to recreational beaches. –Genevieve Heger
            Burchell, M., Hunt, W., Price, W. D., 2012. Dune Infiltration Systems for Reducing Stormwater Discharge to Coastal Recreational Beaches. Bio&Ag Engineering, 400-412

            Burchell et. al constructed DISs at three distinct sites in Kure Beach, North Carolina—site L, M, and K. Hundreds of samples were collected from each site, in addition to a controlled dune, where no DIS was installed. The fecal bacteria concentrations for each of the samples were measured and compared with the concentrations found in ground water outside the system in order to determine the effects of the DIS. The efficiency of the DISs in North Carolina underwent both short-term and long term monitoring to ensure the stability and reliability of these systems.
            They found that overall, the DISs were a success. The concentration of bacteria was reduced by 98%. Nearly all of the runoff that was generated at the three sites was treated in the DIS before entering the ocean waters. Site L demonstrated 100% stormwater capture, site M demonstrated 96%, and site K demonstrated 80%. The percent captured for site K, although lower than the others, is understandable since it received greater volumes of runoff with higher concentrations of bacteria than the other two sites. The systems appeared to have no negative effects, and the authors believe that the incorporation of these systems may receive positive media coverage and could potentially boost tourism.