New modeling to better predict changes in water quality


A new modeling capability developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory integrates important biogeochemical processes that occur in river corridors for a better understanding of the impact of climate change, land use and population growth on water quality.

Researchers used high-performance computing and award-winning Amanzi-ATS software to include biogeochemical reactions in active microbial areas near streams in models that track the movement of dissolved chemicals in river systems. These reactions have a major influence on the carbon, nutrient and contaminant cycle at the basin scale. The new multiscale model better tracks water quality indicators such as nitrogen and mercury levels.

“To create a next-generation modeling capability to solve water quality problems, we needed a new multiscale framework that allowed us to incorporate a fundamental understanding of key processes and how these Small-scale processes manifest themselves at much larger scales, ”said Scott Painter of ORNL.

The research team validated and demonstrated the model on several watersheds.

Article and image courtesy of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

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