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Association of Urban Runoff with Coastal Water Quality in Orange County, California

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Abstract:

The associations between storm events, urban runoff, and coastal water quality have not been well investigated. A temporal and spatial analysis of 2 years of data was conducted to determine associations between urban river discharge and indicator bacteria levels for Southern California beaches and evaluate the contribution of anomalous precipitation to the association. Data show beaches next to rivers had the highest bacterial levels in both wet and dry seasons. Bacterial levels rose substantially across all sites during wet months, and river discharge and bacterial levels were all highest during the winter with the most rainfall. Precipitation was significantly associated (Spearman rank bivariate correlation, P < 0.01) with water discharged from the rivers. River discharge was significantly associated with bacterial levels at 20 out of 22 beaches, with the strongest associations at sites next to rivers. The results indicate that urban river discharge is a primary source of Southern California's coastal water pollution and, as a result, swimming at beaches near rivers may pose a significant public health risk. The strong association found between precipitation and water pollution may be relevant to studies of potential health effects associated with climate change.

Keywords: CLIMATE CHANGE; COASTAL WATERS; EL NINO; INDICATOR BACTERIA; OCEAN; STORM DRAINS; URBAN STORMWATER RUNOFF; WATER QUALITY

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/106143002X139776

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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