Clean water is the foundation for healthy & prosperous communities. While our nation has made significant progress since the 1970’s in cleaning up many of our rivers, bays and other vital water resources, we still face significant water quality and quantity challenges. Drinking water sources are threatened by pollution and overconsumption, and some of these threats are made worse by climate change.
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We usually associate saltwater with the ocean, which gets its distinctive flavor from naturally occurring minerals. Such minerals are also found in freshwater systems in lower concentrations, and natural salt levels vary with local geology. However, human inputs of salt increase concentrations far beyond naturally occurring levels, threatening ecosystem balance. Therefore, it is important to understand how humans cause salt pollution. In this section, we will reveal the human activities responsible for salt pollution and the extent of their impacts.
In Maryland, salt pollution is already problematic and continues to worsen. Currently, 28 of Maryland’s streams are identified as chloride impaired [Winter Salt]. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the baseline secondary contaminant level for chloride, a common component of road salt (mostly sodium chloride, NaCl), at 250 mg/L; however, many of the state’s streams have exceeded this limit for over 20 years [UMD extension].