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Water & Soil

Higher water temperatures associated with a warming climate

also exacerbate water quality and habitat for humans, fish, and the wildlife who depend on clean, pure water.  Healthy soils, which are essential to plant life, ecosystems, and agriculture can suffer increased  erosion through flooding and extreme rain events. This will result in altered soil alkalinity and diminished levels of  organic carbon and nutrients.

 

Climate Change Effects on Water Quality-

Flooding from climate change can affect water quality, as large volumes of water can transport contaminants into water bodies and also overload storm and wastewater systems.

 

  • Flooding could jeopardize water quality.  For example, in our town's rural areas, the runoff from climate change could pick up animal wastes, pesticides, and fertilizers from farms and fields. 

  • The combination of higher surface water temperatures and increased nutrient loading from agricultural runoff may increase the occurrence of Algae blooms in rivers and lakes, which in turn block or interfere with the performance of water treatment equipment.

  • The loss of winter snow pack will greatly reduce a major source of groundwater recharge and summer runoff, resulting in a potentially significant lowering of water levels in streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands during the growing season.

  • Drought conditions can also impair water quality- as water supplies decline the concentration of contaminants increases.

Climate Change Effects on Soil-

Soil is vulnerable to changes in temperature and precipitation. Declining soil health will have environmental impacts on our vegetation and water quality. It could also negatively affect our agricultural production.

 

Soil erosion- Climate change will affect rates of soil erosion. This is because more frequent extreme weather events will bring heavy downpours. Heavy rain that falls in a short period of time – are a major cause of soil erosion. If the rain is heavy enough, the soil cannot absorb it and water flows across the surface taking a layer of topsoil with it. Steep, hilly terrains & ravines that comprise much of our town's  rural areas have a high erosion risk.

Soil organic carbon- Soil organic carbon (SOC) is a key indicator of soil health. Loss of soil carbon will cause declines in nutrient availability, biological activity, soil physical structure, water-holding capacity, aeration, and agricultural productivity. Changes in the quantity of carbon stored in the soil can also affect the global carbon cycle and alter carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Decreases in soil carbon may also raise greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere which in turn creates a negative climate spiral effect. 

Soil Nutrients- Soil is the major source of the nutrients needed by plants for growth. Changes in nutrient levels also impacts natural ecosystems. Extreme rain events can diminish soils nutrient levels. 

Acidity and Alkalinity (pH)- Soil pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. All plants have ranges of pH that they grow best in, beyond which they will suffer. Changes in soil pH may also affect natural ecosystems, which have normally established under particular pH ranges. An increasingly wet climate pattern is expected to increase soil acidity. ​

Erie County Hazard Mitigation Assessment- 

Erie County's Hazard Mitigation Plan warns that "In Western New York and beyond, the simultaneous convergence of multiple climate change impacts could lead to synergistic effects that amplify the already dangerous changes we may face. For example, increased incidence of extreme precipitation events can lead to erosion of streambanks. This erosion results in direct loss of arable soil in agricultural land and potential damage to public property.

 

Additionally, the soil lost from riparian zones causes sedimentation in waterways, and eventual deposition into lakes. This increase in turbidity negatively impacts aquatic ecological communities and delivers nutrients in the form of phosphorous and nitrogen (naturally present in soils) that can cause excessive growth of aquatic macrophytes and harmful algal blooms (HABs). These algal blooms can cause toxic effects on wildlife and pets, as well as humans, and are a major cause for concern in NYS. 

 

Harmful algal blooms are also linked to increases in temperature, so climate-related increases in water temperature are a contributing factor in HAB extent, severity, and duration. This combination of extremes in precipitation and increases in temperature may elevate the extent and severity of HABs, impacting water quality for wildlife as well as drinking water supplies. 

 

Water quality is also affected by climate change, as higher water temperatures and more frequent floods and droughts are projected to exacerbate many forms of water pollution – from sediments to pathogens and pesticides."

 

Understanding these impacts on municipal governments is critical to ensuring that impacts to public health and safety, damage to infrastructure, and environmental impacts are all kept to a minimum."

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper-

Specifically for the Town of Aurora,  Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has accumulated the following data for the main, east & west branches of Cazenovia Creek.  

  • Waterkeeper visually assessed 10 miles of Cazenovia Creek in Aurora.

  • Created a multi-year water quality data set of Hunters Creek (Town of Wales).

  • Elevated nutrient levels throughout Aurora observed through
    Waterkeeper sampling.

  • Bacterial data collected indicates elevated levels of E.coli in
    Cazenovia Creek West and East Branch.

(Source: Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper "Importance of Headwater Communities-Town of Aurora" -Can be viewed in entirety here.)

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