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J Contam Hydrol. 2012 Aug;136-137:96-105. doi: 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2012.05.005. Epub 2012 Jun 5.

Na/Cl molar ratio changes during a salting cycle and its application to the estimation of sodium retention in salted watersheds.

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  • 1Department of Geological, Environmental, and Marine Sciences, Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648, USA.


Using soil column experiments and data from natural watersheds, this paper analyzes the changes in Na/Cl molar ratios during a salting cycle of aqueous-soil systems. The soil column experiments involved introducing NaCl salt at various initial concentrations into multiple soil columns. At the start of a salting cycle in the column experiments, sodium was adsorbed more than chloride due to cation exchange processes. As a result, the initial Na/Cl molar ratio in column effluent was lower than 1, but increased thereafter. One-dimensional PHREEQC geochemical transport simulations also were conducted to further quantify these trends under more diverse scenarios. The experimentally determined Na/Cl molar ratio pattern was compared to observations in the annual salting cycle of four natural watersheds where NaCl is the dominant applied road deicing salt. Typically, Na/Cl molar ratios were low from mid-winter to early spring and increased after the bulk of the salt was flushed out of the watersheds during the summer, fall and early winter. The established relationship between the Na/Cl molar ratios and the amount of sodium retention derived from the column experiments and computer simulations present an alternative approach to the traditional budget analysis method for estimating sodium retention when the experimental and natural watershed patterns of Na/Cl molar ratio change are similar. Findings from this study enhance the understanding of sodium retention and help improve the scientific basis for future environmental policies intended to suppress the increase of sodium concentrations in salted watersheds.

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