The Stream, December 22, 2021: Road Salt is Polluting the Largest Freshwater Resource in the World


  • Himalayan glaciers are melting faster than anywhere else in the world, a new study finds.
  • Nearly 300 people report becoming ill after swimming in polluted U.K. waterways.
  • The State Emergency Services isn’t preparing some New South Wales residents adequately for potential flooding, they say.

Salinity levels in the Great Lakes are rising, according to a new study.

“If we pay attention to salt pollution, this is a problem we can fix.” – Hilary Dugan, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Limnology. A new study finds that salinity levels in the Great Lakes have risen over the last 200 years, primarily due to road salt used during icy winter months. The study, led by Dugan, used water quality data and computer models to analyze the amount of salt carried into Lake Michigan from 234 tributaries. Their analysis found that salinity levels on Lake Michigan sit at 15 milligrams per liters, versus between one and two milligrams in the 1800s. Dugan said resource managers should consider lowering the amount of salt used during the winter to reduce runoff into the Great Lakes.


In Case You Missed It:

HotSpots H2O: 100,00 Displaced as Water Scarcity Ignites Ethnic Clashes in Cameroon – Climate change has made rainfall in the Sahel more variable, straining Cameroon’s agriculture industry and sparking ethnic tensions.

What’s Up With Water—December 20, 2021 – This week’s episode covers ongoing drought in Iraq, an investigation into an oil and gas exploration company in southwest Africa, and the annual meeting of Colorado River Basin leaders.

“Third Pole” Glaciers Melting At An Alarming Rate, Study Finds

A study led by the University of Leeds found that Himalayan glaciers have lost ice 10 times more quickly in the past few decades than they have on average since the Little Ice Age. The analysis found that Himalayan glaciers decline faster where they end in lakes, rather than ending on land. Glaciers with significant amounts of natural debris on their surfaces also melt more quickly, according to the study. The rapid melting of the glaciers threatens water supplies for millions of people across Asia.



According to the nonprofit Surfers Against Sewage, 286 people have gotten sick after swimming or surfing in rivers or seas polluted with sewage around the United Kingdom. Sewage pollution is rampant in U.K. waterways. One water utility, Southern Water, was fined £90 million for deliberately dumping wastewater into waterways from 2010 to 2015. The pollution has sparked criticism from the public, prompting stricter laws from the government and promises from utilities to lower pollution.


Residents in New South Wales’ far west say the State Emergency Services (SES) have not helped them properly prepare for flooding. Justin McClure, the vice president of the Tilpa Community Committee and a member of the Wilcannia SES, says the agency has been preoccupied with disasters in the northern region, and understaffing issues have prevented them from properly assessing local needs. Meanwhile, the threat of severe flooding in the region continues to build, as inflows from multiple tributaries across the state continue to increase.

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