Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016ME319B

Assessing the Vulnerability of Maine’s Drinking Water Resources to Extreme Precipitation Events

Institute: Maine
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $27,277 Total Non-Federal Funds: $67,773

Principal Investigators: Jasmine Saros

Abstract: Lakes are an integral part of Maine’s landscapes and communities, and approximately half of Maine’s high quality drinking water comes from 46 lakes across the state. This high quality water is threatened by a rapidly changing climate, in particular, extreme precipitation events, which have increased in frequency in the Northeastern U.S. by 60-80% since the 1950’s. Recent research on a previous WRRI-funded project suggested that average annual concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) increased in Maine lakes during extreme wet years. In Maine lakes that serve as drinking water sources, scientists and water district managers have identified algal blooms, taste and odor problems, and harmful by-products as some of the problems created by rising DOC concentrations. Currently, however, the extent to which storm events are altering DOC and consequently the biota of Maine’s lakes is unclear. Furthermore, little is also known about the economic costs associated with these potential changes in water quality, which pose health threats and expensive remediation strategies. Our goal is to assess the vulnerability of Maine’s drinking water lakes to these potential effects of increasing extreme precipitation events. A subset of 12 Maine drinking water lakes were selected for this study based on variation in ecological and economic features as well as stakeholder (i.e., water districts) interest. Our approach and objectives include quantifying changes from extreme precipitation events using storm sampling and quantifying the costs and benefits of changes in water quality, management, and treatment. Meeting these objectives will lead to a better understanding of the effects of storms on DOC and subsequent biological and economic effects in lakes as well as development and implementation of adaptation and management strategies.