While almost 87% of the world’s population now has access to an improved drinking water source, the risk of water pollution remains, often due to environmental factors such as increasing urbanization and industrialization. Last year, as the country watched the tragic Flint, Michigan tap water quality deterioration unfold, the issue was brought closer to home: How good is Baltimore’s water system? Baltimore’s water source is primarily surface water, which feeds into the Liberty, Loch Raven and Prettyboy reservoirs. The Socio-Environmental Synthesis (SES) approach was used to investigate the factors that contribute to water quality impairment. SES is a research method that integrates existing knowledge and data from natural and social sciences to advance understanding of socio-environmental systems. The study found out that while the quality of the drinking water is generally good, there is a growing concern with the quality of water in the watersheds. The high levels of nitrate-nitrogen and increased concentrations of carbon dioxide are especially alarming. The high levels of Biological Oxygen Demand are also good indicators of the intensity of agriculture and urbanization in the watersheds. This study believes that maximizing the current watershed conservation and restoration efforts would reduce the treatment costs and safeguard the urban water supplies.
Read the full article in Hydrology.