How Sea Level Increase Affects Land Water Systems

One of the most talked-about effects of climate change, and arguably one of the most visible ones is the increase in the levels of seawater. The threat to islands, atolls, and low-lying coastal areas is often talked about from the perspective of the risk of erosion, flooding, and sinking. However, a new study has discovered that an increase in the levels of seawater may have some impacts that could be potential health hazards.

A team of Earth scientists from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa have published a study which suggests that an increase in levels of seas can lead to coastal areas of the sea as well as storm drains to be contaminated with wastewater. This not only affects flooding patterns but also poses collective health risks. In addition to this, the team also found the presence of groundwater leaking into coastal seas and storm drains. The team concluded that this contamination is tidally-induced.

Connection between groundwater, surface water, storm drains, and WIS. (Image Courtesy: McKenzie, et al 2021; University of Hawai’i News)

The presence of groundwater was detected through the presence of radon, a gas that ‘reliably indicates the presence of groundwater.’ Radon is a noble gas which is not especially harmful in its intake through groundwater. Wastewater contamination, on the other hand, was identified through the presence of organic contaminants like caffeine and certain antibiotics.

The contamination of storm drains, which possibly overflow and cause flooding, especially in low-lying areas. This not only leads to obstacles and delays for disaster management access but also poses additional health hazards in events of floods, etc. Moreover, this also adds to the risk for aquatic ecosystems.

“Coastal municipalities should pursue mitigation strategies that account for increased connectivity between wastewater infrastructure and recreational and drinking water resources,” said postdoctoral researcher Trista McKenzie, lead author of this study. “We need to consider infrastructure that minimizes flooding opportunities and contact with contaminated water; and decreases the number of contaminant sources, such as installation of one-way valves for storm drains, decommissioning cesspools, monitoring defective sewer lines, and construction of raised walkways and streets.”

The study has been published in the Limnology and Oceanography Letters, and highlights the immediate need to mitigate climate change and its various impacts, especially in at-risk areas such as coastal lowlands and islands.

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Terra Love View All →

I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.

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