Researchers: Flood-drought cycle can deteriorate drinking water
Researchers: Flood-drought cycle can deteriorate drinking water.
March 31 (UPI) — Extreme changes in weather will lead to deterioration in the quality of drinking water, Kansas University researchers say in a report.
The findings, published in the journal Biogeochemistry, indicate that "whiplash weather," in which weather veers from drought to flood, for example, will lead to changes in farm production, with particular concern about how it will affect fertilizer use.
"Instead of going into the plants, which would be harvested, it stays in the soil — and no water is flushing it away."
The abnormal amount of nitrogen remains in the soil until a deluge, the researchers say, which will cause later problems down the road.
"The soil is like a sponge, and when it’s dry the nitrogen stays put, but as soon as you wet it, like when you wring a sponge, the nitrogen can flood into the rivers," added co-author Amy Burgin.
Remediating high nitrogen content in drinking water will involve the construction of new water treatment facilities, straining taxpayers, the report says.
Loecke cited an Iowa drought and flood cycle in 2012 and 2013, which resulted in a nitrogen increase in water and the construction of a $4.1 million nitrate removal plant costing $7,000 per day to operate.
"Increased weather whiplash will, in part, increase the frequency of riverine N [river-borne nitrogen] exceeding EPA drinking water standards.
Thus, our observations suggest increased climatic variation will amplify negative trends in water quality in a region already grappling with severe impairments," researchers wrote in the report.