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The influence of concrete on the geochemical qualities of urban streams

Carl Tippler A , Ian A. Wright B D , Peter J. Davies A and Alison Hanlon C

A Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University, NSW 2019, Australia.
B School of Science and Health, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1791, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia.
C PO Box 205, Hurstville BC, NSW 1481, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: i.wright@uws.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13164
Submitted: 24 June 2013  Accepted: 18 February 2014   Published online: 17 October 2014


 
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Abstract

The geochemical signature of freshwater streams can be used to determine the extent and nature of modification to stream water geochemistry due to urban development. This approach used the Gibbs (1970) diagram as a model for evaluation of changes to ionic composition linked to urban development. In this multi-year study, the geochemistry of 21 waterways in the Georges River catchment, Sydney, were monitored and compared with the level of urban development as measured by sub-catchment imperviousness and directly connected imperviousness. The results reflect a strong relationship between the intensity of sub-catchment urban development and stream geochemistry. All major geochemical attributes increased with escalating levels of urban development. The largest increase was for bicarbonate, which increased 18 times from a mean of 6.4 mg L–1 at non-urban streams to a mean of 118 mg L–1 at urban streams. Similarly, mean concentrations of calcium increased by 14 times (from 2 to 27.9 mg L–1). Mean salinity was enriched in the most urban streams, compared with non-urban streams, by more than 6 times. We attribute this, in part, to the influence of urban geology, notably concrete stormwater infrastructure. Changes in stream geochemistry due to urban development are an important element of the urban stream syndrome.

Additional keywords: geochemistry, Gibbs diagram, impervious surface, ionic pollution, urbanisation, urban stream syndrome.


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