Potential ecological impact of climate change on the water quality of an intensively managed agricultural watershed in Quebec, Canada

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This study investigated the effects of climate change (CC) on water redistribution in a micro-watershed of a lowland agricultural area of the Bras d'Henri River in the temperate cold climate of Quebec, Canada. A Water Flow and Balance Simulation Model (WaSiM-ETH) was used to simulate the hydrology using current climatic conditions and land use characteristics, applying Richards’ equation. A one-day temporal resolution was used with a spatial resolution of 2 × 2 m. The CC scenarios Coupled Global Climate Model, version 1 (CGCM1) and Hadley Centre Coupled Model, version 3.1 (HadCM3.1) were downscaled to the regional level and integrated into WaSiM-ETH and evaluated for both current and modified climatic conditions. Mean annual precipitation values (P) increased from 15–33%, evapotranspiration from 7–26%, and discharge (Q) from 16–45%. The identification of the significant water quality problem represented by average value of total suspended solids (TSS) 265.29 (kg ha−1), nutrients: nitrogen (NO3-N) 16.83 (kg ha−1) and total phosphorus (TP) 0.59 (kg ha−1) for the whole evaluated period; and (TSS) 148.09 (kg ha−1), (NO3-N) 5.65 (kg ha−1) and (TP) 0.31 (kg ha−1) during the days with surface runoff, in relation to water quantity and CC creates the basis for erosion risk assessment.

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