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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, is a valuable natural resource that suffers summer hypoxic events resulting from over a century of cultural eutrophication. Current efforts to reduce nitrogen loading from wastewater treatment facilities discharging into the Bay and its tributaries hold the promise of working towards ecological restoration. But, the efficacy of these efforts may be limited, or undone, if future changes in climate or land use increase nutrient and sediment loads to the Bay. This study developed a SWAT model of the upper Narragansett Bay watershed to simulate water quantity and quality. The baseline model was calibrated and validated to accurately reflect watershed behavior. I then used the model to simulate water quantity and quality under an altered climate, with an IPCC projected increase in temperature of 3°C and a 10% increase in precipitation by 2080. A second scenario incorporated projected 2080 land use in the absence of climate change. The third scenario combined the climate change and land use change alterations to examine cumulative impacts.

A comparison of scenario outputs against the baseline simulation highlighted the expected impacts climate change and land use change will have on the watershed. Both climate change and land use change demonstrated impacts on surface runoff, water yield, PET and ET, streamflow, and loading of sediment, organic N, organic P and nitrate. Climate impacts were much greater than land use impacts, but land use impacts displayed greater regional variation. The results of the combined simulation indicate that future climate and land use change will likely negatively impact the Bay and undermine current efforts at restoration. However, the results also highlight the potential to utilize land use to mitigate some of the impacts of climate change.


First Advisor

Timothy O. Randhir