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The effects of wastewater reuse on smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) relative abundance in the Shenandoah River Watershed, USA

March 22, 2024

Municipal and industrial wastewater effluent is an important source of water for lotic systems, especially during periods of low flow. The accumulated wastewater effluent flows—expressed as a percentage of total streamflow (ACCWW%)—contain chemical mixtures that pose a risk to aquatic life; fish may be particularly vulnerable when chronically exposed. Although there has been considerable focus on individual-level effects of exposure to chemical mixtures found in wastewater effluent, scaling up to population-level effects remains a challenging component needed to better understand the potential consequences of exposure in wild populations. This may be particularly important under a changing climate in which wastewater reuse could be essential to maintain river flows. We evaluated the effects of chronic exposure to wastewater effluent, as measured by ACCWW%, on the relative abundance of young-of-year (YOY), juvenile, and adult smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) populations in the Shenandoah River Watershed (USA). We found that increases in ACCWW% in the previous year and during the prespawn period were negatively correlated with the relative abundance of YOY, resulting in an average 41% predicted decrease in abundance (range = 0.5%–94% predicted decrease in abundance). This lagged effect suggests that adult fish reproductive performance may be compromised by chemical exposure during periods of high ACCWW%. No relationships between ACCWW% and juvenile or adult relative abundance were found, suggesting that negative effects of ACCWW% on YOY abundance may be offset due to compensatory mechanisms following higher ACCWW% exposure. Understanding the effects of wastewater effluent exposure at multiple levels of biological organization will help in the development of management strategies aimed at protecting aquatic life. Environ Toxicol Chem 2024;00:1–11. © 2024 The Authors. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of SETAC. This article has been contributed to by U.S. Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.

Publication Year 2024
Title The effects of wastewater reuse on smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) relative abundance in the Shenandoah River Watershed, USA
DOI 10.1002/etc.5849
Authors Tyler Wagner, Paul McLaughlin, Kaycee E. Faunce, Samuel H. Austin, Kelly Smalling
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Index ID 70252485
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown; New Jersey Water Science Center; VA/WV Water Science Center