Understanding localized impacts and perceptions of connections between winter road maintenance and water quality

Authors: Rebecca Kauten*, University of Iowa
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Environmental Perception, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Stormwater, urban watersheds, winter weather, public works, transportation, water quality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This proposal aims to determine the state of perceptions and action of managers tasked with local and statewide decision-making related to road salt and freshwater salinization.

Surface waters in North America are becoming saline, often due to winter road maintenance. While salinization comes with its own environmental and human health concerns, a greater issue is how salinized freshwater can alter conditions for other pollutants, such as metals. The presence of salts at increased concentrations may likely indicate higher concentrations of other serious pollutants in freshwater systems. Analysis of in-depth interviews with state and local transportation agency officials will determine to what extent management decisions, attitudes, perceptions and actions align with freshwater salinization concerns and empirical evidence of local impacts.

This project broadens knowledge of ecotoxological concerns and the capacity of communities to take appropriate action. The research is novel in approach because it elucidates often-overlooked and under-studied factors of freshwater salinization: one of the greatest potential environmental concerns. While studies have detected trends in increased salinization for decades, little is known about secondary effects. Furthermore, overwhelming concerns for immediate human health and safety often supersedes concern for environmental and ecotoxological impacts of road salt applications. Expected outcomes of this research include greater understanding of freshwater salinization at the local scale, evidence of under-estimation by state and federal agency data, and an understanding of management decision-making by those with the greatest influence over environmental impacts.

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