Effects of a drought period on physico-chemical surface water quality in a regional catchment area.

Research paper by Gert-Jan GJ Wilbers, Gertjan G Zwolsman, Gerard G Klaver, A Jan AJ Hendriks

Indexed on: 11 Jun '09Published on: 11 Jun '09Published in: Journal of environmental monitoring : JEM


Hydrological drought periods are expected to become more severe in North-Western Europe as a result of climate change. This may have implications for water quality, as demonstrated by declining water quality of large rivers (e.g. Rhine, Meuse) during droughts. However, similar investigations in regional catchment areas are lacking to date. In the present study, we investigated the effects of a drought period on the water quality of the Dommel River, a tributary of the Meuse river in the Netherlands. Water quality during the drought of 2003 was compared to that in reference years (2004-2006) for 18 physical/chemical parameters using ANOVA analysis. It was demonstrated that the drought period of 2003 did not significantly affect water quality, although the origin of river flow during the drought shifted from mainly overland flow to deep groundwater flow and (treated) communal effluents. Significant differences in water quality were noted for some monitoring stations during the study period, which could be related to operational water management such as cleaning of sediment traps in the river and improvements in communal effluent treatment. The results of this study are interesting to water managers in Western Europe as they contribute to understanding the potential impact of climate change on water quality/quantity patterns in regional water systems.