Modelling future coastal water pollution: impacts of point sources, socio-economic developments & multiple pollutants

Mirjam P. Bak*, Carolien Kroeze, Annette B.G. Janssen, Maryna Strokal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Urbanisation is happening worldwide. In 2100, over 70% of the population is projected to live in highly urbanised areas. As a result, urban wastewater discharge may increase. This may add multiple pollutants to rivers and coastal waters. However, current knowledge on how urbanisation-related socio-economic developments affect coastal water pollution is limited. In this study, we analysed individual and combined impacts of wastewater treatment improvements, economic growth and city expansion on future coastal water pollution from point sources (sewage and open defecation) by sub-basin taking a multi-pollutant approach. We improved the existing MARINA-Multi model (version Global-1.0) by integrating hydrology and pollutant retentions in order to quantify river exports of total dissolved nitrogen, total dissolved phosphorus, microplastics and triclosan to coastal waters for 2010 and 2100 using scenario analysis. Globally, river exports from point sources are projected to more than double by 2100 for all pollutants, especially in Africa and Asia. Wastewater treatment improvements, economic growth and city expansion can have a positive (less pollution) or negative (more pollution) impact on future coastal water pollution. These impacts differ among pollutants and sub-basins. Wastewater treatment improvements may globally reduce multi-pollutant issues (−30% to −38% change on average) compared to the reference scenario (positive impact). Economic growth and city expansion may globally enhance multi-pollutant issues (+15% to +25% and +28% to +33% change on average, respectively) compared to the reference scenario (negative impact). A combined scenario, accounting for all three socio-economic developments simultaneously, may globally reduce or enhance pollutant issues (−21% to +50% change on average) compared to the reference scenario. In the combined scenario, the reinforcements of positive and negative impacts are pollutant- and region-dependent. Our study gives insights into future coastal water pollution, which aids in identifying management strategies for urban areas, hence contributing to reaching Sustainable Development Goal 14.

Original languageEnglish
Article number064028
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume19
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2024

Keywords

  • coastal waters
  • multiple pollutants
  • scenario analysis
  • socio-economic development
  • urbanisation
  • water quality

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