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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Increased Dissolved Organic Carbon Concentrations in Peat-Fed UK Water Supplies Under Future Climate and Sulfate Deposition Scenarios

Xu, J.; Morris, P. J.; Liu, J.; Ledesma, J. L. J.; Holden, J.


Peatlands are globally-important terrestrial carbon stores as well as regional sources of potable water supply. Water draining from peatlands is rich in dissolved organic carbon (DOC), which can be problematic for water treatment. However, it is unclear how future climate and sulfate deposition changes may impact DOC in peatland-derived potable water. The United Kingdom (UK) is a global hotspot that consumes 79% of all potable water derived directly from peatlands. Here, a physically-based hydrological model and a biogeochemical organic carbon model were used to predict discharge and DOC concentration in nine hotspots of peatland-derived potable water use in the UK under a range of 21st century climate and sulfate deposition scenarios. These nine catchments supply 72% of all peatland-derived water consumed in the UK and 57% of the global total, equivalent to the total domestic consumption of over 14 million people. Our simulations indicate that annual discharges will decrease and that mean annual DOC concentrations will increase under all future scenarios (by as much as 53.4% annually for the highest emissions scenario) in all catchments. Large increases (by as much as a factor of 1.6) in DOC concentration in the 2090s over the baseline period are projected for autumn and winter, seasons when DOC concentrations are already high in the baseline datasets such that water treatment works often reach their capacity to cope. The total DOC flux is largely insensitive to future climate change because the projected increase in DOC concentration is mostly counterbalanced by the projected decrease in discharge.

Published in

Water Resources Research
2020, Volume: 56, number: 1, article number: e2019WR025592

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG6 Clean water and sanitation
    SDG13 Climate action

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

    Publication Identifiers


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