Trend of Warm Winters Affecting Bodies of Water Across Rhode Island

Warmer water, along with heavier precipitation events and certain types of pollution, could disrupt the delicate balance between animals, plants, algae, and bacteria as we approach spring and summer.

By: Tim Studebaker

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WLNE) – Bodies of water across Rhode Island hang in a delicate balance as animals, plants, algae, and bacteria all thrive off each other.  But, Elizabeth Herron, the Director of URI’s Watershed Watch program, says a trend of warmer winters could change that.

Herron says, “We are seeing that the water’s warming up earlier in the spring and staying warmer later into the fall.”

She says the last two winters have intensified that trend.

Herron says, “I think we had maybe a week of ice cover, very briefly, so it’s going to have a big impact on lakes and ponds.”

She says heavier precipitation events and certain types of pollution are compounding the problem.

Herron says, “It’s not just the factories at the end of the pipe kind of pollutants anymore.  It’s the stuff that we all are contributing to the water bodies kind of as individuals.”

She says all these changes could mean impacts on fishing, as well as more algal blooms, and an increase in potentially harmful cyanobacteria, which could close beaches to swimming.  There could also be changes to the appearance of the water.

Herron says, “And, that can have an impact on property values. There’s been lots of studies done throughout New England that when water clarity goes down, so do property values.”

There is something you can do to help. You can volunteer to collect water samples at lakes, ponds, and streams all across Rhode Island as part of URI’s Watershed Watch program.  The scientists there will analyze those water samples to help them figure out exactly what’s going on. Visit their website to learn more: https://web.uri.edu/watershedwatch/

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2020

Categories: News, Rhode Island