Energy Policy and Coastal Water Quality: An Integrated Energy, Air and Water Quality Modeling Approach
In this article, authors integrate models of energy, air quality, and water quality to investigate the potential water quality impacts of policy-driven changes in total nitrogen deposition in watersheds draining to US coastal areas.
Federal policy changes in the management of carbon emissions from power plants offer a potent real-world example for examining air-land-water interactions and their implications for coastal water quality. We integrate models of energy (Integrated Planning Model (IPM)), air quality (Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) and water quality (SPAtially Referenced Regression On Watershed attributes (SPARROW)) to investigate the potential water quality impacts of policy-driven changes in total nitrogen deposition in watersheds draining to US coastal areas. We estimate the combined effects of three recently proposed energy policy scenarios, population growth, and climate change. We decompose the combined effects into the roles of the individual components on the supply of riverine nitrogen for the entire US and eight coastal regions. We find that population growth is the most important driver of changes in coastal nitrogen flux. Energy policies play a minor role in offsetting the negative effects of population growth, although the effect varies by energy policy and region. The greatest population and policy effects are projected for the Gulf of Mexico. Given limited reductions in nitrogen emissions and deposition associated with energy policies, the net effect of policy and population changes is an increase in total nitrogen flux to all estuaries relative to the 2010 baseline. While population growth increases flux, and energy policies decrease flux in all regions, climate change can either increase or decrease flux depending on the region. That is because the relatively large individual effects of temperature and precipitation on watershed nitrogen processes work in opposing directions. The net result of the offsetting nature of individual climate processes varies in both magnitude and direction by coastal region. Further research is needed to sort out individual temperature and precipitation effects in different regions.
Jhih-Shyang Shih is a fellow at RFF. His research interests lie in integrated system analysis of environmental and resource policy and decisionmaking.
Charles T. Driscoll
Darius Gaskins Senior Fellow
Dallas Burtraw is the Darius Gaskins Senior Fellow at RFF. Burtraw’s research includes analysis of the distributional and regional consequences of climate policy and the evolution of electricity markets, including renewables integration.
Richard A. Smith
Kathy Fallon Lambert
Armistead G. Russell
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