Environmental Protection

Acidity Decreasing in Rivers

A USGS study shows that rivers across the United States are less acidic due to a decrease in atmospheric deposition, industrial waste, and mine drainage.

The U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study that measures the alkalinity of rivers, which discovered that acidity in the water is steadily decreasing. The most common areas where rivers experienced the reduction of acidity levels were the Northeast, Midwest, and the Missouri River in the Great Plains.

"Long-term monitoring of streamflow and water quality is essential to track how changes in climate and land use are impacting rivers and how riverine inputs may impact valuable commercial and recreational fisheries in estuaries across the Nation," said William Werkheiser, associate director for water. "Increasing alkalinity levels in large rivers across the country since 1945 is a positive trend."

"This study shows us that our cumulative management actions over the last half century have reduced acidity levels in U.S. rivers," said lead author Edward Stets, research ecologist at the USGS.  "Acidification of rivers that empty into estuaries can adversely impact shell-bearing organisms, such as oysters and crabs."

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