Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Thermal pollution

When we think of how stormwater impacts lakes, rivers and streams, we tend to think of sediment and other contaminants that degrade water quality. We rarely think of how elevated runoff temperatures, known as thermal pollution, can greatly alter the temperature regime of natural water bodies. On hot days, impervious surfaces, such as parking lots and roofs, absorb and emit heat.  When it rains, heated runoff that flows over these surfaces can potentially increase the temperature of receiving waters. Increased temperatures can negatively impact coldwater fish populations by interfering with spawning and migration patterns, decreasing dissolved oxygen levels and even resulting in fish kills.

Stormwater Best Management Practices have an effect on runoff temperature, and the University of New Hampshire's Stormwater Centre has been researching the effectiveness of various BMPs in regulating thermal pollution from stormwater runoff.

They found that surface systems, such as retention ponds, that are exposed to direct sunlight provide little no reduction of high runoff temperatures and can potentially increase already elevated summer runoff temperatures. Various infiltration and filtration systems were best able to moderate runoff temperatures by thermal exchange with cooler subsurface materials. Systems with a large subsurface area had the greatest ability to buffer runoff temperatures. The full report titled 'Examination of Thermal Impacts from Stormwater Best Management Practices' can be found here

Brook Trout. (Photo: Source)

1 comment:

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