Global call for better attention to water resource management

16 March 2012

The past few days have seen various statements emerging from the WWF gathering of 20000-odd people.  One of the most important has been the call to “safeguard the resource on which all life depends”.  That should be pretty clear to most, otherwise

An intensification of the global water crisis will raise public health costs, derail economic development, aggravate ecological problems, and cause grave social and geo-political tensions, potentially leading to conflicts.

This is already happening in many parts of the world.

In the same week, there have been several examples of why this should be the case, or where individuals and organizations are striving to do so.

In Europe, concern is being expressed about the urgent need to heed warnings about how water is used.  Graphic.com reports that

Continued inefficient use of water could threaten Europe’s economy, productivity and ecosystems, a report has warned.  The European Environment Agency (EEA) said that the continent’s water resources were under pressure and things were getting worse.
It said limited supplies were being wasted, and nations had to implement existing legislation more effectively.  Within the EU, agriculture uses about a quarter of the water diverted from the natural environment, and in southern Europe the figure is as high as 80%.

In Colorado, USA, stricter water quality regulations are being proposed – as they should be worldwide right now:

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission is considering two new rules, both aimed at requiring treatment plants to lower nitrate and phosphorus levels.  If those nutrients are in excess they can cause aesthetic water quality problems or algae. If the new rules are approved new monitoring and treatment equipment will be required and those costs will be passed on to customers.  The water quality control division has been working on this proposal over the last ten years.  It says this expensive treatment process needs to start now because the problem will only get worse as the population gets bigger.

Mardi Gras is now over and New Orleans residents are suing the EPA for nutrient pollution of the states rivers (this is the only type of action that will get the national regulators to do their jobs):

Environmental groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to force the federal government to curb an overdose of nutrients from farms and cities that end up in the nation’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters. The groups say the nutrients cause toxic algae blooms and the massive low-oxygen “dead zone” that crops up every summer in the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmentalists said Wednesday they hope lawsuits in federal courts in New Orleans and New York will force the EPA to stem the influx of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous into the waterways. The case is led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental law group.

In a teleconference outlining the lawsuit, participants alleged that states up and down the river are to blame for rising pollution levels, but one state gets most of the blame, Illinois.

Illinois is the largest source of both of the nitrogen and the phosphorus that causes the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Glynnis Collins with the Prairie Rives Network, “The industrial scale of corn and soybean production on our farmland is a major source of nutrient pollution, and secondly, Illinois is home to Chicago’s Water Reclamation District with seven large sewage treatment plants. [Source: CBS St Louis]

In New England, public health awareness continues to drive home the message about what preventable pollution of water resources can bring about:

Algal blooms are not only ugly but potentially dangerous.  Just as we New Englanders are accustomed to hearing about red tides making it dangerous to eat shellfish, we need to understand that the green ones we now see in some of our ponds can be a real public health threat. The blue-green algae are potentially dangerous, as some of them have the ability to produce toxins. If the toxin is present, ingesting the algae during swimming or water skiing is one way for the toxins to be released in our gut, where they can result in neurological and organ damage.

Over in Florida, locals have caught onto one of the biggest dangers in artificial lakes, maintaining a permanent, non-fluctuating water level.

Lakes that remain high due to artificial manipulation are subject to a slow death by eutrophication; nutrient poisoning and oxygen depletion. Drought is the best cure for eutrophication, for that’s when the vegetation, muck and sediments that have settled on lake bottoms are exposed to air, dry out and either burn off or blow away.

Try telling developers and or lakeside residents that they need to have variable water levels if they want a healthy lake!  Believe me, I have been doing this for many years and its not easy.  The adage that “lakes cannot be all things to all people” is simply ignored.

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