A recent report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines trends related to climate change in the United States, with data related to 37 climate indicators such as air and water temperatures, river and coastal flooding, ocean acidity and sea level rise.
New to the fourth edition of Climate Change Indicators in the United States is information on stream temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay region. After studying more than 50 years’ worth of data from 129 stream monitoring sites, experts found that stream temperatures are increasing throughout the watershed—across Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia—but the largest increases have occurred in the southern portions of the region. Water temperatures increased by an average of 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit (F) across all sites and by 2.2 degrees F at sites with trends considered statistically significant (to a 95-percent level).
Other effects of climate change throughout the Chesapeake Bay region are highlighted in the report. Washington, D.C., for example, has seen peak cherry blossom bloom dates shift approximately five days earlier since 1921. And from 2010 to 2015, Annapolis, Maryland, saw the second highest average number of coastal flood days: 46 days per year. The city has also experienced one of the most dramatic increases in overall frequency of flooding, where floods are at least 10 times more common than in the 1950s.
Also released in August is the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) State of the Climate report, which confirmed that 2015 surpassed 2014 as the warmest year on record since the mid-to-late 19th century. The report, which is based on contributions from more than 450 scientists from 62 countries, found that land and ocean temperatures, sea level rise and greenhouse gases all broke previously-held records.
Joe Wright of Stafford, Virginia, fishes off the end of the Port Royal Landing in Caroline County, Virginia. Port Royal’s new 200-foot pier—just opened in 2015—features a soft launch for paddlers and was funded by grants from the National Park Service, Friends of the Rappahannock, the Chesapeake Conservancy and other organizations.
Nestled along the Rappahannock River, the small historic town of Port Royal borders the Port Royal Unit of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, where a 1.4-mile wildlife trail and two viewing platforms allow for visitors to hike and observe the river and surrounding land. The refuge—one of the first of its kind—is actually a collection of 17 unconnected tracts of land. From the northernmost Port Royal Unit to the Laurel Grove tract nearly 40 miles downstream, the refuge makes up 8,720 acres of protected land. The goal is to one day protect 20,000 acres along the river and its tributaries.
In the future, Friends of the Rappahannock and the Town of Port Royal will be working with the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge to establish a water trail that will provide access to the Styer Bishop, Port Royal and Toby’s Point areas of the refuge.
Image by Will Parson
Miguel Sacedo harvests squash on Cottingham Farm in Easton, Maryland, at sunrise. Owned by environmental-lawyer-turned-farmer Cleo Braver, the 156-acre farm has a mission to produce sustainably grown, locally distributed and certified organic food.
Years ago, Braver was unaware of the impact certain agricultural techniques could have on local waterways. But after some research, she learned how the use of excessive pesticides and fertilizers was partially responsible for the poor water quality in Goldsborough Neck Creek, a tributary of the Miles River that runs behind her house. Braver’s interest in producing healthy food while minimizing her impact prompted her to make a change.
Now, Cottingham Farm is home to a variety of restoration efforts, including forest buffers that help trap nutrients and sediment from running into local waterways. The land is also home to an 18-acre wetland—a once-cornfield that was transformed into habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl with the help of Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the USDA Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
Image by Keith Rutowski
Untreated groundwater across the Chesapeake Bay watershed has a high potential of being corrosive, according to a recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey. Left untreated, corrosive groundwater could leach lead and other metals from pipes and plumbing fixtures, potentially contaminating private drinking water supplies.
Public water supplies across the country are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But private water supplies must be tested and maintained by homeowners. Approximately 44 million people in the U.S. get their drinking water from private wells—including 1.7 million in Virginia and 3 million in Pennsylvania. The study, which assessed 20,000 wells across the country from 1991 to 2015, shows groundwater in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia has a ‘very high’ risk of being corrosive, while groundwater in Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and West Virginia has a ‘high’ risk.
“This study is a good reminder that prudent, routine testing of the water, including its interaction with the water supply system, is an essential first step so homeowners and their families can confidently drink water from their faucets,” said Stephen Moulton II, assistant chief of operations for the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program, in a release.
Corrosive water is not dangerous to drink on its own, and potentially corrosive groundwater does not indicate the presence of lead or other metals in tap water. But corrosive water may react with pipes and other plumbing fixtures, leaching metals such as lead or copper into the water and potentially cause health-related problems. Signs of leaching caused by corrosive water may include bluish-green stains, small leaks in plumbing fixtures or a metallic taste to the water.
The report, “Assessing the Potential Corrosivity of U.S. Groundwater,” can be found online.