In Wake of Global Shutdowns, Researchers Expect Water Quality to Improve


Since air and water quality are linked, researchers expect to see signs of cleaner water in the short term.

Researchers have mapped declines in air pollution after lockdowns were imposed around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but those are not the only environmental impacts they expect to see. They think the cleaner air could also mean cleaner water – at least in the short term.

“The connection between atmosphere and surface water quality is very tight,” said Dennis Hallema, a hydrologist and research assistant professor in NC State’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. “These two systems are integrally linked. The question is: How much of a change in quality do we expect to see?”

In a letter to the journal Ecological Processes, Hallema and his collaborators reported that when they looked at satellite data collected by NASA between March 23 and April 5 of this year, they saw “significant” declines in certain pollutants in the air compared with a similar period last year. The researchers focused on assessing the impact of travel restrictions and other measures imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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