Predicting pH, Alkalinity, and Total Acidity in Stream Water During Episodic Events


  • James A. Lynch,

  • C. Mark Hanna,

  • Edward S. Corbett


Acid precipitation was found to significantly influence the chemistry of a small headwater stream in central Pennsylvania. Stream discharge during 18 storms was sampled and analyzed for pH, bicarbonate alkalinity, and titratable acidity levels. The precipitation events varied considerably in their amounts, durations, and intensities and also produced highly variable hydrologic responses from the watershed. Stream pH and alkalinity levels were found to react inversely to stream discharge during storm flow periods, with their lowest levels occurring almost simultaneously with peak flow. In comparison, storm flow acidity was directly related to the discharge rate, with the peaks nearly coinciding. Models predicting the fluctuations in storm flow pH, alkalinity, and total acidity were developed. These models, which explained 88, 91, and 80% of the variations in stream pH, alkalinity, and acidity, respectively, used as their independent variables such hydrometeorological parameters as antecedent flow rate, time to peak, peak flow rate, quick flow volume, and storm precipitation amounts. These results suggest strongly that the hydrologic response of a watershed has potential application as an index of stream sensitivity to changes in pH, alkalinity, and acidity during acid precipitation/snowmelt events.