While most of the UConn community was enjoying winter break, UConn scientists were hard at work. On January 8, 2018 researchers at UConn, in collaboration with others at the University of Maryland, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the University of Virginia and Chatham University published a study finding that our waterways are getting saltier. The article, published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” found that human use of things like fertilizers, mining byproducts and deicers have indirectly flown into waterways and overall raised that salinity of those waterways. Additionally the waterways have become more alkaline.
This study is unique due to it being the first of its kind to look at the issue of salinity in waterways at a global level. While knowledge of the dangers of extra salt in a waterways has been done before, it has mostly been confined to smaller areas. Additionally most people believe that salt that gets absorbed into the environment is quickly washed away and redistributed across the environment in a minimal fashion. The research done shows that this isn’t the case. In fact, when salt seeps into the environment it can have a lasting impact and can take a long time to disappear.
When salt seeps into waterways, it raises the pH of water, making it more alkaline. Water is by nature, neutral having a pH of seven on a scale that ranges from zero to fourteen. More alkaline water can have major problems for the environment. In 2014, Flint, MI changed its water source to the Flint River. The highly salted river corroded old pipes and destroyed the quality of drinking water available to residents. Almost four years later, problems still persist.
In today’s society, people hear about the importance of caring for the environment. Students at UConn, hear more than others as the university continues its quest to be a more environmentally stable university. The research has shown the kind of damage a simple thing like clearing a road can have on the environment. Students should remain ever mindful of the danger they can inadvertently do to the environment. It is also imperative that UConn continues to fund such research in order to help the global community improve its understanding of the environment and learn how to better help it.