Friday, July 23, 2010

Climate change puts Delaware estuary resources at risk

Leah Hoenen in Cape (Delaware): Key Delaware estuary resources, including drinking water and shellfish, are threatened by sea-level rise and must be protected, a new study finds. Increased salinity moving up the estuary could have a devastating effect on drinking water.

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, along with dozens of partners, examined drinking water, tidal wetlands and shellfish, specifically oysters and freshwater mussels. All three are key resources for the estuary; all three are vulnerable to effects of climate change, including warmer temperatures, higher sea levels and saltier water. The partnership released a report, “Climate Change and the Delaware Estuary,” Wednesday, July 21, detailing how those three resources might be affected by climate change and how people can adapt to help protect resources.
Prime Hook marsh dying »

The report says current mitigation efforts, such as reducing car emissions, will produce results in 20 to 30 years. But, the group warns, “no amount of mitigation will prevent the changes we will see between now and then.” One of the most serious concerns is the potential increase in salinity, which would affect all three resources highlighted in the report.

…The group’s report states 15.2 million people drink water from the Delaware River Basin. Keeping the drinking-water resource safe could become expensive if the water has to be treated to remove salt, according to the report. The Philadelphia Water Department’s Paula Conolly contributed to the report, which said drinking water infrastructure could be damaged or inundated by flooding, sea-level rise and storm surge.

Treatment plants and other water infrastructure are placed close to water resources, right in the path of flooding and storm surge, the report says. Scientists also worry that heavier precipitation and continued development could lead to more runoff, which delivers pollution to waterways and will degrade source-water quality….

Delaware Bay map by Matthew Trump and uploaded by Decumanus at en.wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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