Global Warming, Metal, and Rivers: What Do They Have to Do With Each Other?
Picture from United States Geological Survey.
The Upper Snake River basin in Colorado.
According to a recent New York Times article on climate change, apparently global warming has been having a very large effect on the water ecosystems of the Upper Snake River and also Deer Creek (in Colorado). The United States Geological Survey has found through its 30-year study of the Upper Snake River that there is very strong evidence to believe in a connection between climate change and the rise of metal concentrations in this river. The amounts of metal concentrations in these two rivers have been going up for the past thirty years and the heat of the earth has been rising parallel to it.
You may be thinking, “Oh my God! Are we going to have extreme metal contaminations in our drinking water?” However, it turns out that drinking water quality is not at stake here:
This is not a human health issue directly, not for big downstream urban areas,” said Andrew Manning, a research geologist with the United States Geological Survey and one of the study’s principal investigators.
The real problem lies in the fact that with higher metal concentrations comes a more difficult environment for the water creatures to live in. For example, because of the higher metal concentrations in the Upper Snake River, an aluminum precipitate (nicknamed “The White Death”) sometimes clouds the water with its milky white color and smothers all life underneath it.
This new problem for the water ecosystems of the mountainous West is also a problem for the mining companies in the rest of the country. Because of the not-so-environmentally-friendly mine cleanups that are going on in most mines all over America, the E.P.A has sent people to try and find out how badly these mines have damaged the ecosystems and how much effort will need to be put into the rivers to help remediate them and clear them of the white death.