Findings Memo

What are the facts?

Eutrophication is a very complicated topic that is very hard to solve.  It is a chain reaction that ends up affecting many different factors in our nation’s estuaries. Before even beginning to try and work out a solution, it is important to know the facts around it.

What is causing Eutrophication?

All bodies are subject to a slow and natural process of eutrophication, however, in recent years this process has undergone a rapid progression. This is because of cultural eutrophication, which is the same eutrophication process, but the excess of nutrients is due to human activity. These types of human activity can include point source pollution, including “pollution from contaminants that enter a waterway from a single identifiable source like stationary locations or fixed facilities” (Conserve Energy Future, n.d.), and nonpoint source pollution, like “pollution from widespread, including human activities with no specific identifiable point of discharge or entry into receiving watercourses” (Conserve Energy Future, n.d.). In some areas, sewage discharge is dumped directly into water, high amounts of chemical nutrients. To continue growing our Agriculture industry, lots of land has been cleared out, increasing the runoff. Not only did the initial clearing of land impact the water system, but the added fertilizers to increase food production also added excessive nutrients to the water system. The fertilizers used are rich in nutrients like Nitrate and Phosphorus, which, in excess, can be very damaging to water systems. These nutrients do not stay in the soil, they’re often washed away from rainfall or other forms of irrigation. This runoff also washes away animal waste, resulting in even more nutrients in the water.

What is being affected?

Our nation’s estuaries are being severely affected by eutrophication. “Sixty-five percent of the estuaries and coastal waters in the contiguous U.S. that have been studied by researchers are moderately to severely degraded by excessive nutrient inputs’ “ (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, n.d).  The thing that makes eutrophication so complicated is just how many factors of our estuaries are being affected. The water itself is impacted through the excess nutrients.  Due to this increase, the algae then increases at a rapid rate creating a thick algael bloom. The algael bloom blocks the sunlight, which eventually affects the photosynthesis process of the plants.  The plants die while bacteria thrives, and the water loses oxygen.  This eventually kills all the living things in the water, and can affect life in surrounding waters as well.  Besides the impact on bodies of water, it also can affect human health and diet. When algal bloom occurs, it’s nearly impossible to fish. Eventually, the water becomes toxic, which in turn makes eating fish that live in the water toxic. Live-stock can also be affected by drinking this eutrophied water.

References

Rinkesh. (2020, June 20). Causes, Effects and Solutions to Ecological Problem of Eutrophication. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-and-solutions-to-eutrophication.php

US Department of Commerce, N. (2019, April 02). What is eutrophication? Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/eutrophication.html

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