Prioritizing the restorability of impaired water bodies: A case study of four watersheds in the Delta region in the state of Mississippi

Author(s): Sinshaw, T.; Surbeck, C.

The restorability potentials of four impaired water bodies (Lake Washington, Harris Bayou, Coldwater River, and Steele Bayou) in the Delta area of Mississippi were compared in this study using the EPA Recovery Potential Screening tool. A variety of selected indicators under ecological, stressor, and social fields were evaluated. The studied water bodies’ restorability potential was ranked based on the most influential indicator score, the aggregated indicator score under each field, and the integrated recovery potential score of the three fields. Restorability scores were calculated based on two scenarios; (1) with indicators assigned with equal weight and (2) with indicators assigned with unequal weight. Agricultural activity, covering 70 to 80 % of the total land use of the studied water bodies’ drainage area, was found as the most stressful single indicator. In that regard, Harris Bayou was observed as the most difficult to restore. Based on the aggregated indicator under each field scores, Steele Bayou and Lake Washington were observed with the most and the least favorable biophysical conditions for restorability, respectively. The Coldwater River was observed with the highest social capacity for restorability. The water bodies were also compared based on an overall integrated recovery potential score (IRPS) of the three fields. Coldwater River and Steele Bayou were found as the first and second most restorable water bodies in both the equally and unequally weighted scenarios. Harris Bayou and Lake Washington were ranked as the third and fourth, respectively in the equally weighted scenarios, and fourth and third, respectively in the unequally weighted scenarios. Remarkable rank change between Harris Bayou and Lake Washington in the unequally weighted scenario implies the significant effect of assigning indicator weight on restorability ranking. Based on this rationale, this research suggests further study is needed on the EPA Recovery Potential Screening tool to understand the sensitivity of the restorability potential based on indicator weights.

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