Maryland to Publish First Saltwater Intrusion and Salinization Plan


Planning in Progress

by Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Development and Infrastructure Planner with Jason Dubow, Manager, Resource Conservation & Management

This article is a follow up to our original April 10, 2019 article

What is saltwater intrusion and salinization? 

In layman’s terms, saltwater intrusion occurs when seawater or brackish water infiltrates a source of freshwater as a result of sea level rise, storms, excessive groundwater pumping, or other human activities or natural events. Salinization generally refers to the process by which salts accumulate in soils and/or freshwater. 

Why does it matter? 

Saltwater intrusion and salinization pose a threat to coastal communities around the globe given the potential for damage to potable drinking water, freshwater ecosystems, and land, whether used for agriculture or covered by forests,  wetlands, or other coastal environments. Neither brackish nor saltwater is suitable for consumption, nor should it be frequently used to irrigate fields. Many species of animals and plants cannot tolerate it.

Examples of coastal communities in the United States that are beginning to experience increased effects of both saltwater intrusion and salinization include South Florida, Los Angeles, North Carolina, and parts of Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore. Climate change, bringing rising sea levels, worsening storms, and causing other changes to the weather, is increasing the threat of saltwater intrusion and salinization in these areas and others around the globe.

What are we doing about this in Maryland?

In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly tasked Planning to “establish a plan to adapt to saltwater intrusion,” in consultation with the Maryland Departments of Natural Resources, Environment, and Agriculture, by Dec. 15, 2019, and to update the plan at least once every five years (Chapter 628, Laws of Maryland 2018).  

The Maryland Department of Planning expects to publish Maryland’s Plan to Adapt to Saltwater Intrusion and Salinization later this month or early in the New Year. 

For more information, contact Jason Dubow, Manager, Resource Conservation & Management at jason.dubow@maryland.gov or (410) 767-3370. Be sure to follow Planning Practice Monthly for more detailed coverage of this issue and the new plan in January.

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