Widespread salinization—and, in a broader sense, an increase in all total dissolved solids (TDS)—is threatening freshwater ecosystems and the services they provide (e.g., drinking water provision). We used a mixed modeling approach to characterize long-term (2010–2018) spatio-temporal variability in TDS within the Monongahela River basin and used this information to assess the extent and drivers of vulnerability. The West Fork River was predicted to exceed 500 mg/L a total of 133 days. Occurrence and duration (maximum = 28 days) of—and thus vulnerability to—exceedances within the West Fork River were driven by low flows. Projected decreases in mean daily discharge by ≤10 cfs resulted in an additional 34 days exceeding 500 mg/L. Consistently low TDS within the Tygart Valley and Cheat Rivers reduced vulnerability of the receiving Monongahela River to elevated TDS which was neither observed (maximum = 419 mg/L) nor predicted (341 mg/L) to exceed the secondary drinking water standard of 500 mg/L. Potential changes in future land use and/or severity of low-flow conditions could increase vulnerability of the Monongahela River to elevated TDS. Management should include efforts to increase assimilative capacity by identifying and decreasing sources of TDS. Upstream reservoirs could be managed toward low-flow thresholds; however, further study is needed to ensure all authorized reservoir purposes could be maintained.
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