Water quality deterioration

Is the river clean enough?

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Water quality can mean many different things to many different people. A farmer may be concerned about salts in water used to irrigate the fields, a fisherman about the types of fish that live in rivers, a swimmer about the harmful bacteria and pathogens or toxic algae, and we all should be concerned about what is in water we drink and use every day. We study these conditions and processes that affect what is in our rivers and lakes.

Good quality of water is essential for well-being of human population as well as our environment. The Water Framework Directive in Europe, the Clean Water Act in the USA, and other similar legislation across the world set environmental objectives for rivers and lakes and aim to achieve good quality status of these waters and to prevent their further deterioration. Improving water quality, implementing integrated water resources management, and protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems are a few of the targets for the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation.

The SMHI’s water quality research is centered on the HYPE model development, the HYPE applications, and their use in advancing both science and practical water management issues. Water quality modules, namely nutrients, have been applied in four different domains of various scales so far; Europe, Sweden, Greater uMngeni basin (South Africa), and Åland (Finland). These models have been successful in replicating the larger spatial patterns of longterm average concentrations but the intra- and inter-annual dynamics have not been represented sufficiently well. 

Nutrients are important across the world, but other parameters such as sediments or pathogens also play a major role in global water management and should be a focus of the development.

Research and Development questions

  • How can we use the existing observed concentration time series, the catchment characteristics, and other sources of information more efficiently to improve our understanding of water quality deterioration at local and global scales?
  • How can we use this better understanding to validate models in different regions or ungauged basins and to improve our methods to estimate the model state variables?
  • How do climate change and various mitigation measures affect water quality status?

Our core publications in this Scientific focus

Arheimer, B., Dahné, J., Donnelly, C., Lindström, G., Strömqvist, J. (2012). Water and nutrient simulations using the HYPE model for Sweden vs. the Baltic Sea basin – influence of input-data quality and scale. Hydrology research 43(4):315-329.

Arheimer, B., Nilsson, J. and Lindström, G. (2015). Experimenting with Coupled Hydro-Ecological Models to Explore Measure Plans and Water Quality Goals in a Semi-Enclosed Swedish Bay. Water 7(7):3906-3924. doi:10.3390/w7073906.

Donnelly, C, Andersson, J.C.M. and Arheimer, B., (2016). Using flow signatures and catchment similarities to evaluate a multi-basin model (E-HYPE) across Europe. Hydr. Sciences Journal 61(2):255-273, doi: 10.1080/02626667.2015.1027710

Hundecha, Y., Arheimer, B., Donnelly, C., and Pechlivanidis, I. (2016). A regional parameter estimation scheme for a pan-European multi-basin model. J. Hydrol: Regional Studies 6: 90-111, doi:10.1016/j.ejrh.2016.04.002

Lindström, G., Pers, C.P., Rosberg, R., Strömqvist, J., Arheimer, B. (2010). Development and test of the HYPE (Hydrological Predictions for the Environment) model – A water quality model for different spatial scales. Hydrology Research, 41(3-4), 295-319.

Pers, C., Temnerud, J. and G. Lindström, (2016). Modelling water, nutrients, and organic carbon in forested catchments: a HYPE application. Hydrological Processes, 30(18):3252-3273, doi:10.1002/hyp.10830

Strömqvist, J., Arheimer, B., Dahné, J., Donnelly, C. and Lindström, G. 2011. Water and nutrient predictions in ungauged basins – Set-up and evaluation of a model at the national scale. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 57:2, 229-247