Chloride sources in urban and rural headwater catchments, central New York

Kristina Gutchess, Li Jin, Laura Lautz, Stephen B. Shaw, Xiaoli Zhou, Zunli Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Road salt used as a deicing agent in winter months has become an emerging contaminant to streams and groundwater. In central New York, road salts are applied heavily during winter months. Recognizing potential sources of salinity to a river may reveal processes controlling the salinization of freshwater systems, with implications for future management practices. The Tioughnioga River, located in central New York, is a headwater of the Susquehanna River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Salinity of the Tioughnioga River water has been increasing since the late 1930s. In this study, water samples were collected weekly at the East and West Branches of the Tioughnioga River from 2012 to 2014. We characterize natural and anthropogenic sources of salinity in the Tioughnioga River, using two independent approaches: (1) chloride to bromide ratios (Cl/Br) and (2) linear discriminant analysis. Ratios of Cl/Br suggest that road salt runoff influence is notable in both branches, but is more significant in the West Branch, consistent with a greater area of urban land. Linear discriminant analysis confirms the results of Cl/Br in the West Branch and further indicates presence of Appalachian Basin Brines in the East Branch, although their contribution may be volumetrically small. Longitudinal stream Cl concentration profiles indicate that sources of pollution are particularly concentrated around urban areas. Residence time of Cl in the watershed is estimated to be approximately 20 to 30 years using a mixing model, suggesting that stream Cl concentrations likely will continue to rise for several decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-472
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Sep 15 2016


  • Bromide
  • Chloride
  • Groundwater
  • Linear discriminant analysis
  • Road salt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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