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Title: Upper limits for road salt pollution in lakes

Widespread and increasing use of road deicing salt is a major driver of increasing lake chloride concentrations, which can negatively impact aquatic organisms and ecosystems. We used a simple model to explore the controls on road salt concentrations and predict equilibrium concentrations in lakes across the contiguous United States. The model suggests that equilibrium salt concentration depends on three quantities: salt application rate, road density, and runoff (precipitation minus evapotranspiration). High application combined with high road density leads to high equilibrium salt concentrations regardless of runoff. Yet if application can be held at current rates or reduced, concentrations in many lakes situated in lightly to moderately urbanized watersheds should equilibrate at levels below currently recommended thresholds. In particular, our model predicts that, given 2010–2015 road salt application rates, equilibrium chloride concentrations in the contiguous United States will exceed the current regulatory chronic exposure threshold of 230 mg L−1in over 2000 lakes; will exceed 120 mg L−1in over 9000 lakes; and will be below 120 mg L−1in hundreds of thousands of lakes. Our analysis helps to contextualize current trends in road salt pollution of lakes, and suggests that stabilization of equilibrium chloride concentrations below thresholds designed to protect aquatic organisms should be an achievable goal.

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Award ID(s):
1637685 2025982 1907683 1754363
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Limnology and Oceanography Letters
Medium: X Size: p. 859-866
p. 859-866
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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