A modeling scheme that uses only water temperature and pH to predict dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in freshwater was developed to gauge the health of streams in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Freshwater Stream Oxygen Model (FSOM) provides citizen scientists with a tool for taking action on stream pollution.

Developed at West Virginia University, the FSOM incorporates water quality information collected from 86 monitoring stations across 32 states between 1998 and 2015. That large data set encompasses temperate, continental, arid and Mediterranean climates, as well as land covers and uses as diverse as forests, grazingDO is considered an important indicator of water quality. Source: ApureDO is considered an important indicator of water quality. Source: Apure lands and parking lots.

The data generated can help determine how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies a stream and whether the agency will permit a project that affects a particular stream. Users simply plug in temperature and pH readings to explore how water quality will evolve under different scenarios for climate that impact temperature and changing land use.

Increased water temperatures associated with global warming trends make it harder for oxygen to dissolve in water. Higher temperatures also promote the decomposition and oxidation of organic matter and increase microbial respiration, processes, which use up oxygen.

The modeling system detailed in Water Resources Research indicates that a high percentage of vegetated land and steep slope of draining watersheds contribute to the predominant climatic control of stream DO.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com