Predicting the vulnerability of reservoirs to poor water quality and cyanobacterial blooms
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Cyanobacterial blooms in drinking water reservoirs present a major ecosystem functioning and human health issue. The ability to predict reservoir vulnerability to these blooms would provide information critical for decision making, hazard prevention and management. We developed a new, comparative index of vulnerability based on simple measures of reservoir and catchment characteristics, rather than water quality data, which were instead used to test the index's effectiveness. Testing was based on water quality data collected over a number of seasons and years from 15 drinking water reservoirs in subtropical, southeast Queensland. The index correlated significantly and strongly with algal cell densities, including potentially toxic cyanobacteria, as well as with the proportions of cyanobacteria in summer months. The index also performed better than each of the measures of reservoir and catchment characteristics alone, and as such, was able to encapsulate the physical characteristics of subtropical reservoirs, and their catchments, into an effective indicator of the vulnerability to summer blooms. This was further demonstrated by calculating the index for a new reservoir to be built within the study region. Under planned dimensions and land use, a comparatively high level of vulnerability was reached within a few years. However, the index score and the number of years taken to reach a similar level of vulnerability could be reduced simply by decreasing the percentage of grazing land cover via revegetation within the catchment. With climate change, continued river impoundment and the growing demand for potable water, our index has potential decision making benefits when planning future reservoirs to reduce their vulnerability to cyanobacterial blooms.
Copyright IWA Publishing 2010. The definitive peer-reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Water Research Volume 44, Issue 15, August 2010, Pages 4487-4496 , http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2010.06.016, and is available at www.iwapublishing.com