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There are challenges in monitoring and managing water quality due to spatial and temporal heterogeneity in contaminant sources, transport, and transformations. We demonstrate the importance of longitudinal stream synoptic (LSS) monitoring, which can track combinations of water quality parameters along flowpaths across space and time. Specifically, we analyze longitudinal patterns of chemical mixtures of carbon, nutrients, greenhouse gasses, salts, and metals concentrations along 10 flowpaths draining 1,765 km 2 of the Chesapeake Bay region. These 10 longitudinal stream flowpaths are drained by watersheds experiencing either urban degradation, forest and wetland conservation, or stream and floodplain restoration. Along the 10 longitudinal stream flowpaths, we monitored over 300 total sampling sites along a combined stream length of 337 km. Synoptic monitoring along longitudinal flowpaths revealed: (1) increasing, decreasing, piecewise, or no trends and transitions in water quality with increasing distance downstream, which provide insights into water quality processes along flowpaths; (2) longitudinal trends and transitions in water quality along flowpaths can be quantified and compared using simple linear and non-linear statistical relationships with distance downstream and/or land use/land cover attributes, (3) attenuation and transformation of chemical cocktails along flowpaths depend on: spatial scales, pollution sources, and transitions in land use and management, hydrology, and restoration. We compared our LSS patterns with others from the global literature to synthesize a typology of longitudinal water quality trends and transitions in streams and rivers based on hydrological, biological, and geochemical processes. Applications of LSS monitoring along flowpaths from our results and the literature reveal: (1) if there are shifts in pollution sources, trends, and transitions along flowpaths, (2) which pollution sources can spread further downstream to sensitive receiving waters such as drinking water supplies and coastal zones, and (3) if transitions in land use, conservation, management, or restoration can attenuate downstream transport of pollution sources. Our typology of longitudinal water quality responses along flowpaths combines many observations across suites of chemicals that can follow predictable patterns based on watershed characteristics. Our typology of longitudinal water quality responses also provides a foundation for future studies, watershed assessments, evaluating watershed management and stream restoration, and comparing watershed responses to non-point and point pollution sources along streams and rivers. LSS monitoring, which integrates both spatial and temporal dimensions and considers multiple contaminants together (a chemical cocktail approach), can be a comprehensive strategy for tracking sources, fate, and transport of pollutants along stream flowpaths and making comparisons of water quality patterns across different watersheds and regions.more » « lessFree, publicly-accessible full text available June 9, 2024
Freshwater salinization syndrome (FSS) refers to the suite of interactive effects of salt ions on degradation of physical, biological,and social systems. Best management practices (BMPs), which are methods to effectively reduce runoff and nonpoint source pollution (stormwater, nutrients, sediments), do not typically consider management of salt pollution. We investigate impacts of FSS on mobilization of salts, nutrients, and metals in urban streams and storm water BMPs by analyzing original data on concentrations and fluxes of salts, nutrients, and metals from 7 urban watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic USA and synthesizing literature data. We also explore future critical research needs through a survey of practitioners and scientists. Our original data show 1) sharp pulses in concentrations of salt ions and metals in urban streams directly following both road salt events and stream restoration construction (e.g.,similar to the way concentrations increase during other soil disturbance activities); 2) sharp declines in pH (acidification) in response to road salt applications because of mobilization of H+ from soil exchange sites by Na+; 3) sharp increases inorganic matter from microbial and algal sources (based on fluorescence spectroscopy) in response to road salt applications, likely because of lysing cells and changes insolubility; 4) substantial retention (~30–40%) of Na+ in stormwater BMP sediments and floodplains in response to salinization; 5) increased ion exchange and mobilization of diverse salt ions (Na+, Ca2+, K+, Mg2+), nutrients(N, P), and trace metals(Cu, Sr) from stormwater BMPs and restored streams in response to FSS; 6) downstream increasing loads ofCl–, SO42–, Br–, F–,andI–along flowpaths through urbanstreams and P release from urban stormwater BMPs in response to salinization; and 7)a substantial annual reduction (>50%) in Na+concentrations in an urban stream when road salt applications were dramatically reduced, which suggests potential for ecosystem recovery. We compare our original results with published metrics of contaminant retention and release across a broad range of stormwater BMPs from North America and Europe.Overall, urban streams and stormwater BMPs consistently retain Na+ and Cl–but mobilize multiple contaminants based on salt types and salinity levels. Finally, we present our top 10 research questions regarding FSS impacts on urban streams and stormwater BMPs. Reducing diverse chemical cocktails of contaminants mobilized by freshwater salinization is a priority for effectively and holistically restoring urban waters.more » « less
Freshwater salinization is an emerging global problem impacting safe drinking water, ecosystem health and biodiversity, infrastructure corrosion, and food production. Freshwater salinization originates from diverse anthropogenic and geologic sources including road salts, human-accelerated weathering, sewage, urban construction, fertilizer, mine drainage, resource extraction, water softeners, saltwater intrusion, and evaporative concentration of ions due to hydrologic alterations and climate change. The complex interrelationships between salt ions and chemical, biological, and geologic parameters and consequences on the natural, social, and built environment are called Freshwater Salinization Syndrome (FSS). Here, we provide a comprehensive overview of salinization issues (past, present, and future), and we investigate drivers and solutions. We analyze the expanding global magnitude and scope of FSS including its discovery in humid regions, connections to human-accelerated weathering and mobilization of ‘chemical cocktails.’ We also present data illustrating: (1) increasing trends in salt ion concentrations in some of the world’s major freshwaters, including critical drinking water supplies; (2) decreasing trends in nutrient concentrations in rivers due to regulations but increasing trends in salinization, which have been due to lack of adequate management and regulations; (3) regional trends in atmospheric deposition of salt ions and storage of salt ions in soils and groundwater, and (4) applications of specific conductance as a proxy for tracking sources and concentrations of groups of elements in freshwaters. We prioritize FSS research needs related to better understanding: (1) effects of saltwater intrusion on ecosystem processes, (2) potential health risks from groundwater contamination of home wells, (3) potential risks to clean and safe drinking water sources, (4) economic and safety impacts of infrastructure corrosion, (5) alteration of biodiversity and ecosystem functions, and (6) application of high-frequency sensors in state-of-the art monitoring and management. We evaluate management solutions using a watershed approach spanning air, land, and water to explore variations in sources, fate and transport of different salt ions (
e.g.monitoring of atmospheric deposition of ions, stormwater management, groundwater remediation, and managing road runoff). We also identify tradeoffs in management approaches such as unanticipated retention and release of chemical cocktails from urban stormwater management best management practices (BMPs) and unintended consequences of alternative deicers on water quality. Overall, we show that FSS has direct and indirect effects on mobilization of diverse chemical cocktails of ions, metals, nutrients, organics, and radionuclides in freshwaters with mounting impacts. Our comprehensive review suggests what could happen if FSS were not managed into the future and evaluates strategies for reducing increasing risks to clean and safe drinking water, human health, costly infrastructure, biodiversity, and critical ecosystem services.