A case study on the application of the River Water Quality Model No. 1 (RWQM1) is presented in order to illustrate the importance of modelling a sediment compartment for an ecologically meaningful assessment of the impact of wastewater effluents and combined sewer overflows. The focus of this case study is on the compartmentalisation approach of the RWQM1 that makes such a description possible. In contrast to this, a strongly simplified biochemical submodel is used that considers only oxygen and dissolved substrate. The object of the case study is the River Lahn, a moderately polluted 5th order stream in Germany, for which the connectivity of surface/subsurface flows and mass fluxes within river sediments have been intensively investigated. The hyporheic flow between a downwelling and upwelling zone of a riffle-pool sequence has been studied with the aid of tracer experiments and continuous records of water constituents. High diurnal fluctuations of oxygen travelled to considerable depth of the sediment and oxygen in the interstitial water decreased considerably while travelling through the riffle. Starting with the implementation of a strongly simplified version of the biochemical part of the RWQM1, but with the consideration of a sediment pore water compartment in addition to the water column compartment, a calibration procedure is performed using tracer data from the water column and the sediment. The calibrated model is then used to study the system response to wastewater treatment plant effluent and combined sewer overflow emissions. The modelling approach makes it possible to quantify the sediment oxygen demand and the spatial and temporal extent of sediment zones with oxygen depletion. However, the spatially averaged approach does not account for inhomogeneities in the sediment. It is shown that for this river with its alluvial coarse sediments even moderate emissions from sewerage systems may be high enough to drop sediment oxygen concentrations to low levels while those in the surface flow remain close to saturation. Similarly, it is demonstrated that combined sewer overflows may cause anoxic sediment oxygen conditions for extended time periods. The implications for ecologically sound river water quality modelling and for specific quality objectives are discussed.
River Water Quality Model no. 1 (RWQM1): Case study I. Compartmentalisation approach applied to oxygen balances in the River Lahn (Germany)
D. Borchardt, P. Reichert; River Water Quality Model no. 1 (RWQM1): Case study I. Compartmentalisation approach applied to oxygen balances in the River Lahn (Germany). Water Sci Technol 1 March 2001; 43 (5): 41–49. doi: https://doi.org/10.2166/wst.2001.0247
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