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Effect of ocean outfall discharge volume and dissolved inorganic nitrogen load on urban eutrophication outcomes in the Southern California Bight
  • Minna Ho
Minna Ho

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Climate change is increasing drought severity worldwide. Ocean discharges of municipal wastewater are a target for potable water recycling. However, because potable water recycling would reduce wastewater volume, but would not alter mass nitrogen loading, this practice has the potential to influence spatial patterns in coastal eutrophication. We apply a physical-biogeochemical numerical ocean model to understand the influence of nitrogen management and potable wastewater recycling on net primary productivity (NPP), pH, and oxygen. We model several theoretical management scenarios by combining dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) reductions from 50 to 85% and recycling from 0 to 90%, applied to 19 generalized wastewater outfalls in the Southern California Bight. Under no recycling, NPP, acidification, and oxygen loss decline with DIN reductions, which simulated habitat volume expansion for pelagic calcifiers and aerobic taxa. Recycling scenarios under intermediate DIN reduction show patchier areas of pH and oxygen loss with steeper vertical declines relative to a ”no recycling” scenario. These elevated values are diminished under 85% DIN reduction across all recycling levels, suggesting nitrogen management lowers eutrophication risk even with concentrated discharges. These findings represent a novel application of ocean numerical models to investigate the regional effects of outfall management on eutrophication. Additional work is needed to investigate more realistic outfall-specific water recycling and nutrient management scenarios and to contextualize the benefit of these management actions, given accelerating acidification and hypoxia from climate change.