The Global Problem Of River Water Salinity
15 January, 2013
The salinization of river water all around the world carries high environmental, economic and health cost. It’s a global problem.
Citing an article  in the journal Environmental Pollution a Science Daily report on January 11, 2013 said:
Climate change and the increasing water consumption can worsen the problem of river water salinity in the future.
The article is based on a research developed by an international team led by the experts of the Department of Ecology of the University of Barcelona Narcís Prat and Miguel Cañedo-Argüelles .
Human activity increases the salinity of river ecosystems
The Science Daily report headlined “Salinization of Rivers: A Global Environmental Problem” said:
River salinity can be natural, caused by the geology of the area or the climatology, or anthropogenic, in other words, caused by domestic and industrial waste discharges, mining activity, agricultural and farming residues, etc. In worldwide river ecosystems, excessive salt concentrations caused by human activity are a threat to the survival of organisms and communities, biodiversity, the ecosystem's biological balance, and it produces severe economical and public health problems.
Miguel Cañello-Argüelles, the main author of the article, said:
"This article aims at giving a integrating view and emphasize the seriousness of the ecological, economic and global health effects that secondary salinisation has."
"It happens in many regions from all over the world, although there is a great ignorance about the problem", said Cañello-Argüelles.
The most extreme case of salinisation occurs in some Australian rivers.
In Europe, the process of river salinisation by human action is getting worse as years goes by.
"It is also a problem in Spain," declares the professor Narcís Prat, director of the Research Group Freshwater Ecology and Management (FEM) of the UB. " In the Ebro plain, due to soil's characteristic and the kind of agricultural activity performed, rivers are saltier than in Australia -- he explains -- , but here river conservation is not among the priorities of water resources management," so these problems are not solved.
According to Prat, the question is even worse in the region of Murcia: "It is a semi-arid area where irrigation is a common activity and rivers are saline as a result of the excessive exploitation of water resources."
Looking for solutions
According to the article, current legislation is generally flexible when it comes to establish limits for salt concentrations in rivers.
In Europe, salinisation is not considered an important problem and no legally prescribed environmental quality standards exist for salt.
In many countries, business and industrial factor predominates over the necessity to set a limiting regulation.
Miguel Cañedo-Argüelles considers that "legislation is still waiting. People are not aware of the severity of the problem and information about the effects of excessive salt on river ecosystems is missing."
In the article, the authors quote successful management strategies, for example, the Hunter River salinity trading scheme upstream in Singleton (Australia), with controlled salt discharges adapted to the volume of the river: when the volume is high, more salt is discharged, whereas when it goes down the quantity of salt is reduced.
In a future
The study states that the effects of global change could increase even more the salinisation of rivers in many regions.
Miguel Cañedo-Argüelles thinks that "it is difficult to predict the impact of climate change. In comparison with other regions of the planet, lower rainfall, worse drought, more water consumption, and therefore, more salinity in rivers are expected in the Mediterranean region."
Narcís Prat concludes that "the most important aspect is to stop fighting and began to work together. It is necessary to react against the problem of excessive salinity in Catalan and worldwide rivers before it will be a severer problem."
 Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Universidad de Barcelona.
Universidad de Barcelona (2013, January 11). Salinization of rivers: A global environmental problem. Science Daily. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from
 The article is also authored by Ben J. Kefford from the University of Technology of Sydney (Australia); Christophe Piscart from the University of Lyon (France); Ralf B. Schäfer from the University Koblenz-Landau (Germany); and Claus-Jürgen Schulz from the Thuringian State Institute for Environment and Geology (TLUG, Germany).
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