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Use of a Two-Dimensional Water Quality Model as Both an Analytical Tool and a Communications Tool in the Restoration of Water Quality in the Charles River

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The Lower Charles River Basin, between the Charles River Dam in Watertown, Massachusetts, and the New Charles River Dam in Boston is heavily urbanized, with over 90 individual stormwater outfalls discharging to the river, and, at one time, a total of 18 untreated combined sewer overflow (CSO) locations, as well as one treated CSO location at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's (MWRA's) Cottage Farm CSO Facility. In the mid 1980's, when MWRA assumed responsibility for developing a long-term CSO control plan for the Charles River and other waters related to Boston Harbor, water quality in the Lower Charles River Basin was heavily impaired by pollutant loadings from CSOs, stormwater, and illicit sanitary discharges. Through a series of improvements initiated in the late 1980's and carrying through the present day, water quality in the Lower Charles River Basin has significantly improved. The process of restoring water quality in the Charles River began with the court-ordered activities related to the Boston Harbor cleanup in the late 1980's, and it continues today.

Throughout the process, water quality modeling has been used as both an analytical tool and a communications tool. The complexity of the model and the sophistication of the modeling evaluations evolved through the planning process, culminating in the development of a detailed two-dimensional model that greatly enhanced the understanding of pollutant dynamics in the river. The model proved to be effective in demonstrating to the regulatory agencies, advocacy groups and the general public the specific sources and levels of water quality degradation, and the predicted benefits of various pollution control strategies in terms of water quality improvements in the Charles River. The model was also successfully used to identify the relative significance of the various remaining sources of pollution in terms of causing continued impairments to water quality, allowing further expenditures on water quality improvements to be cost-effectively targeted to where they would be most effective in reducing water quality standards violations. As a result of the findings of the model, the recommended plan for the Charles River focused as much on optimizing or improving existing infrastructure and implementing best management practices, as on providing new infrastructure, primarily in the form of targeted sewer separation.
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Keywords: Charles River; Water Quality Model

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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