I am Donovan King, a biologist, and I joined the LoVoTECS team as a field technician a few months ago after finishing my MS with Plymouth State University.
We have some exciting new work emerging for our LoVoTECS network.
We are currently in the process of moving our research upstream. We will continue to analyze the valuable data we obtained from all of your sites, but we are shifting our focus to the White Mountain tributaries. We will be further exploring the intrusion of road salt into streams at road crossings beginning this 2015/16 winter.
The Cary Institute notes that New Hampshire was the pioneer of using salt to deice our roadways, beginning our first experimental treatments in 1938. The ingenuity has made our highways safer and undoubtedly saved countless lives, but not without environmental consequences. Excess salt poses a risk to our stream ecosystems and contaminates the ground water feeding municipal drinking wells and reservoirs. Today, in the White Mountain region alone, we apply some 25 thousand tons of salt each year to maintain driving conditions on state roads and, likely in response to changing weather patterns, our annual road salt use has been increasing. Local roads and private landholders contribute even more, though the exact amounts are hard to ascertain.
Understanding how the direct input of salt from the road and the legacy salt of previous seasons leeching from soils and ground water interact is crucial to informed policy making. Our new research will attempt to isolate background ions – resulting from natural weathering - from the contribution of ions from deicing salts and pair this information with stream flow rates. To do this, we are installing standardized road salt monitoring sites with paired upstream and downstream sensors placed at prescribed distances from the road (see figure below). We hope to have all sites installed and collecting data prior to the 2015/2016 ice over.
In the Squam Lakes region, we are pairing our research with that of two new graduate students:
Rebecca Hanson is with the Squam Lakes Association. They have been monitoring water quality in the Squam Lake since 1979. She hopes to expand monitoring to our tributaries and examine modern threats to water quality, such as impacts from road salt application. This will better help the SLA to achieve their mission to protect the Squam Lakes and Watershed. Information gathered from this study will help to inform the updated Squam Watershed Plan, and enable them to not just monitor the lakes, but to take action in restoration and protection.
Anju Shrestha is researching a proof of concept to monitor phosphorous input into the lake. She will attempt to pair specific conductivity to phosphorous loading in the streams. If successful, this could improve the usefulness of our data collection methods.
We will be installing at least two of our standardized road salt monitoring sites on Squam Lake tributaries (see map below). Salt use along the northern watershed of Squam Lake, Rt. 113, has been increasing since 1997. Then, an average of 6.98 tons of salt per lane mile was applied. In 2015, the average salt per lane mile has more than doubled to 15.96 tons.
Map of Squam Lakes Sites
In contrast, the Tenney Mountain Hwy (Rt. 25) has seen a sporadic history of annual salt application from as little as 15 to as much as 30 tons per lane mile, with no noticeable change over the last 18 years. Here, we have installed a standardized monitoring site in Clay Brook.
The west end of the Kancamagus (Rt. 112) will also receive several standardized monitoring sites, though the exact locations are still being explored. We hope in the coming weeks to have chosen some informative locations so we can begin to collect data. The Kancamagus is exciting because road salt use is on the decline for NH’s famous roadway; from >20 tons per lane mile in the late 90s and peaking at 43 in 2003, application rates have been down to the teens for the last three years.