Swedish scientists use diatoms to confirm the predictable.

18 December 2011

Swedish scientists have used diatoms contained in lake sediments to “date” the predictable onset of nitrogen buildup, nitrogen related to human activities that is. Diatoms provide an extremely powerful ‘forensic’ tool for this type of analysis – and the only tool, based on records of biota, that will show change in water quality over time.

In fact, the clear signs of industrialisation can be found even in very remote lakes, thousands of kilometres from the nearest city, according to their findings published in the ”Science” journal.

The research is based on studies of sediment from 36 lakes in the USA, Canada, Greenland and Svalbard, Norway.

The scientists have analysed how the chemical composition of the sediment has changed over the centuries. Twentyfive of the lakes all show the same sign — that biologically active nitrogen from human sources can be traced back to the end of the 19th century.

Yet another US state is having a go at reducing phosphorus levels contained in wastewater effluents, this time in South Carolina:

Over the next two years, the water and sewer commission is set to update and expand its operating capacity at its Joanna wastewater treatment plant. The improvements will enhance the facility’s ability to process sewage and meet higher environmental standards.

The $6 million changes planned by the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission will allow treatment workers to better control the oxygen levels in the sewage and remove environmentally hazardous material.

“Cleaning out fecal matter is fairly straight forward, but as the EPA has added more and more constituents over the years, phosphorus has become the big thing,” said LCWSC executive director Jeff Field.

Phosphorus has become a concern in recent years in South Carolina especially. Around 2000, an algae bloom in Lake Murray led DHEC to set higher water-quality standards for Upstate water sources that fed into the lake, especially for phosphorus that feeds the algae.

Blue green algae in the Gippsland Lakes at Bunga Arm. (Supplied by DSE - ABC Gippsland)

The toxic algal bloom in Australia’s Gippsland Lakes is still a problem.

Authorities say a toxic algae outbreak in the Gippsland Lakes means fish caught in the lakes are not safe for human consumption.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment says the blue-green algae species, Nodularia spumigena produces a toxin which can adversely affect liver function.

Scientific testing has found levels of toxins, which can be taken up by fish, prawns, mussels and crabs, are above safe levels.

The ban will stop supplies of Black Bream and Taylor from the Lakes to the Melbourne Markets and will also affect tourism businesses at their busiest time of year.

Here’s a link to a post that lists ten water-related aspects that will be affected by climate change.  Some of them already are, including the increase in incidence of waterborne disease and the emergence of naturally-occurring pathogens that are becoming resistant to antibiotics (multiple drug resistant strains).  Its not an exhaustive list by any means, but a good place to start!

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