Energy policy and coastal water quality: An integrated energy, air and water quality modeling approach

Jhih Shyang Shih, Charles T. Driscoll, Dallas Burtraw, Huizhong Shen, Richard A. Smith, Amelia Keyes, Kathy Fallon Lambert, Yilin Chen, Armstead G. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number151593
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Apr 10 2022


  • Air quality
  • Climate change
  • Coastal water quality
  • Energy policy
  • Integrated modeling
  • NOx emissions
  • Population growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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