Applied Geochemistry, Volume 162

Anthology ID:
Elsevier BV
Bib Export formats:

pdf bib
Road salt-induced salinization impacts water geochemistry and mixing regime of a Canadian urban lake
Jovana Radosavljevic | Stephanie Slowinski | Fereidoun Rezanezhad | Mahyar Shafii | Bahram Gharabaghi | Philippe Van Cappellen

The extensive use of road salts as deicers during winter months is causing the salinization of freshwater systems in cold climate regions worldwide. We analyzed 20 years (2001–2020) of data on lake water chemistry, land cover changes, and road salt applications for Lake Wilcox (LW) located in southern Ontario, Canada. The lake is situated within a rapidly urbanizing watershed in which, during the period of observation, on average 785 tons of road salt were applied annually. However, only about a quarter of this salt has reached the lake so far. That is, most salt has been retained in the watershed, likely through accumulation in soils and groundwater. Despite the high watershed salt retention, time series trend analyses for LW show significant increases in the dissolved concentrations of sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl−), as well as those of sulfate (SO42−), calcium (Ca2+), and magnesium (Mg2+). The relative changes in the major ion concentrations indicate a shift of the lake water chemistry from the mixed SO42–Cl–Ca2+-Mg2+ type to the Na + -Cl- type. Salinization of LW has further been strengthening and lengthening the lake's summer stratification, which, in turn, has been enhancing hypoxia in the hypolimnion and increasing the internal loading of the limiting nutrient phosphorus. The theoretical salinity threshold at which fall overturn would become increasingly unlikely was estimated at around 1.23 g kg−1. A simple chloride mass balance model predicts that, under the current trend of impermeable land cover expansion, LW could reach this salinity threshold by mid-century. Our results also highlight the need for additional research on the accruing salt legacies in urbanizing watersheds because they represent potential long-term threats to water quality for receiving freshwater ecosystems and regional groundwater resources.