For rivers and streams, the impact of rising water temperature on biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) assimilative capacity depends on the interplay of two independent factors: the waterbody’s dissolved oxygen (DO) saturation and its self-purification rate (i.e., the balance between BOD oxidation and reaeration). Although both processes increase with rising water temperatures, oxygen depletion due to BOD oxidation increases faster than reaeration. The net result is that rising temperatures will decrease the ability of the world’s natural waters to assimilate oxygen-demanding wastes beyond the damage due to reduced saturation alone. This effect should be worse for nitrogenous BOD than for carbonaceous BOD because of the former’s higher sensitivity to rising water temperatures. Focusing on streams and rivers, the classic Streeter–Phelps model was used to determine the magnitude of the maximum or “critical” DO deficit that can be calculated analytically as a function of the mixing-point BOD concentration, DO saturation, and the self-purification rate. The results indicate that high-velocity streams will be the most sensitive to rising temperatures. This is significant because such systems typically occur in mountainous regions where they are also subject to lower oxygen saturation due to decreased oxygen partial pressure. Further, they are dominated by salmonids and other cold-water fish that require higher oxygen levels than warm-water species. Due to their high reaeration rates, such systems typically exhibit high self-purification constants and consequently have higher assimilation capacities than slower moving lowland rivers. For slow-moving rivers, the total sustainable mixing-point concentration for CBOD is primarily dictated by saturation reductions. For faster flowing streams, the sensitivity of the total sustainable load is more equally dependent on temperature-induced reductions in both saturation and self-purification.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited