Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016PA226B

Assessing Climate Change and Energy Choice Impacts on Drinking Water Quality Changes in Pennsylvania

Institute: Pennsylvania
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $21,195 Total Non-Federal Funds: $43,390

Principal Investigators: Matteo Pozzi

Abstract: Climate change is expected to pose a significant threat to water resources in the future. While water availability under various climate change scenarios has been widely studied, impacts to water quality are just beginning to be understood. Reduced source water quality will affect drinking water utilities, as well as people and industries that rely on water supplies. Impacts of particular concern to surface water quality are increased runoff and increasing temperatures. In addition, the composition of the electric power plant fleet in the Commonwealth’s will change due to technological progress and the EPA Clean Power Plan. Because of different water needs and discharges, these changes could have either positive or negative impacts on local water quality depending on the energy infrastructure decisions made. The interdependent impacts of climate change and a changing electricity fleet have the potential to make source waters more challenging for Pennsylvania drinking water treatment plants to treat. This research will provide stakeholders with information to make robust decisions about providing quality drinking water under various climate change impacts. The goal of the project is to identify likely effects of climate change and our energy choices to reduce CO2 emissions on the concentration of compounds known to be precursors of disinfection by-products in drinking water. The research goal will be achieved through two objectives each with supporting research tasks. The first objective is to characterize the expected changes in source waters in Pennsylvania due to climate change and the Clean Power Plan deployment through 2030. We will use downscaled regional climate models as inputs to understand the range of climate impacts on the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) content of surface waters source waters, and model how a range of changes in Pennsylvania’s power plant fleet from the EPA’s regulatory impact statement affects the magnitude and direction of bromide concentrations (Br-) in surface waters in Pennsylvania. Finally, we will consider the locations of power plants and drinking water plants and the dilution capacity of large river systems to ascertain whether changes in DOC and Br- will co-occur in ways that will make treatment of surface waters for human consumption more difficult. The second objective is to assess the expected changes in finished water in Pennsylvania drinking water plants due to changes in source waters determined in the first objective. By simulating finished water disinfection byproduct (DBPs) in future source waters, we will assess both risks of changing DBPs in future finished water, and the range of costs of compliance. Using Monte Carlo analysis, we will test the sensitivity of the results across a range of climate models and scenarios, as well as a range of other options Pennsylvania may undertake to comply with the Clean Power Plan. This enables stakeholders to understand the range of potential impacts, and which sets of drinking water infrastructure decisions are robust under uncertainty.