Surface waters are prone to the influences from both natural condition and anthropogenic activities. The aim of this paper was to study the impacts of one natural variable, precipitation, and its change posed by a changing climate on water quality of three rivers in Alberta, Canada. Eleven water quality parameters monitored during the time period of 1988–2014 were used to investigate the impact of precipitation. The results showed the significant dependence of most water quality parameters as well as river flow on the cumulative antecedent precipitation. Water quality parameters however had different associations with precipitation; and thus they would respond to climate change qualitatively and quantitatively differently in the rivers and at the stations of each river. In general, some water quality parameters such as turbidity and total phosphorus would increase; whereas other parameters would decrease or show no appreciable change under the projected increase of precipitation under the median climate change scenario for the river basins. On all three rivers, the maximum increase (17.20%) and decrease (−1.53%) were projected for turbidity and chloride, respectively, in the 2050s; while the maximum increase (29.68%) and decrease (−2.45%) were calculated for turbidity and chloride, respectively, in the 2080s. The results imply the need to manage riverine water quality considering precipitation and its change under a changing climate.
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