Climate-water quality relationships in Texas reservoirs

Rodica Gelca, Katharine Hayhoe, Ian Scott-Fleming, Caleb Crow, Dan Dawson, Reynaldo Patiño

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and concentrations of salts in surface water bodies can be affected by the natural environment and local human activities such as surface and ground water withdrawals, land use and energy extraction, and variability and long-term trends in atmospheric conditions including temperature and precipitation. Here, we quantify the relationship between 121 indicators of mean and extreme temperature and precipitation and 24 water quality parameters in 57 Texas reservoirs using observational data records covering the period 1960 to 2010. Over time scales ranging from 1week to 2years, we find that water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductance, chloride, sulfate, and phosphorus all show consistent correlations with atmospheric predictors, including high and low temperature extremes, dry days, heavy precipitation events, and mean temperature and precipitation. Based on these relationships combined with regional climate projections, we expect climate change to increase water temperatures, decrease dissolved oxygen levels, decrease pH, increase specific conductance, and increase levels of sulfate and chloride in Texas reservoirs. Over decadal time scales, this may affect aquatic ecosystems in the reservoirs, including altering the risk of conditions conducive to algae occurrence, as well as affecting the quality of water available for human consumption and recreation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-29
Number of pages18
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Climate change
  • Climate variability
  • Reservoirs
  • Texas
  • Water quality


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