Global sea level is rising, and the relative rate in the Chesapeake Bay region of the East Coast of the United States is greater than the worldwide rate. Sea-level rise can cause saline water to migrate upstream in estuaries and rivers, threatening freshwater habitat and drinking-water supplies. The effects of future sea-level rise on two tributaries of Chesapeake Bay, the James and Chickahominy (CHK) Rivers, were evaluated in order to quantify the salinity change with respect to the magnitude of sea-level rise. Such changes are critical to: 1) local floral and faunal habitats that have limited tolerance ranges to salinity; and 2) a drinking-water supply for the City of Newport News, Virginia. By using the three-dimensional Hydrodynamic-Eutrophication Model (HEM-3D), sea-level rise scenarios of 30, 50, and 100 cm, based on the U.S. Climate Change Science Program for the mid-Atlantic region for the 21st century, were evaluated. The model results indicate that salinity increases in the entire river as sea level rises and that the salinity increase in a dry year is greater than that in a typical year. In the James River, the salinity increase in the middle-to-upper river (from 25 to 50 km upstream of the mouth) is larger than that in the lower and upper parts of the river. The maximum mean salinity increase would be 2 and 4 ppt for a sea-level rise of 50 and 100 cm, respectively. The upstream movement of the 10 ppt isohaline is much larger than the 5 and 20 ppt isohalines. The volume of water with salinity between 10 and 20 ppt would increase greatly if sea level rises 100 cm. In the CHK River, with a sea-level rise of 100 cm, the mean salinity at the drinking-water intake 34 km upstream of the mouth would be about 3 ppt in a typical year and greater than 5 ppt in a dry year, both far in excess of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's secondary standard for total dissolved solids for drinking water. At the drinking-water intake, the number of days of salinity greater than 0.1 ppt increases with increasing sea-level rise; during a dry year, 0.1 ppt would be exceeded for more than 100 days with as small a rise as 30 cm.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Assessment of salinity intrusion in the James and Chickahominy Rivers as a result of simulated sea-level rise in Chesapeake Bay, East Coast, USA|
|Series title||Journal of Environmental Management|
|Contributing office(s)||Virginia Water Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Chesepeake Bay, Chickahominy River, James River|