Looking at an image of the earth covered by a fathomless breadth of blue water, it might be tempting to relax.
And knowing that, “about 71% of the earth’s surface is water-covered” might be comforting to those who are inclined to worry about shortages.
You might think, seeing this vast blueness, that there will always be enough water to cover humanity’s needs.
And that those who talk about an imminent water crisis are alarmists.
But we, that is, humanity, can’t relax just yet.
Most of that visible water is salt water, i.e., not available to humans for drinking. In fact, only 2.5% of the total amount of water on earth is freshwater, defined as “that needed for life to survive.” And only 20.9% of that tiny slice is found in lakes. In other words, “only a little more than 1.2% of all freshwater is surface water, which serves most of life's needs. Most [freshwater] is locked up in ice, and another 20.9% is found in lakes.”
Lakes are precious natural treasures that provide numerous benefits to both the environment and humans. Aside from their crucial role in sustaining human life, lakes support diverse ecosystems, offer a myriad of recreational opportunities, and enhance the beauty of our landscapes. But they are under a growing threat from pollution, which, if not addressed, threatens their and our existence.
Sources of Pollution in Lakes and Ponds
How to address such a pressing problem? The first step to cleaning up pollution is to understand its causes. Broadly speaking there are two primary culprits: point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution.
What is Point Source Pollution?
Point source pollution is contamination that originates from identifiable and specific sources, for example, industrial discharges, sewage treatment plants, and other facilities that release pollutants directly into a lake. Point source pollution is easier to monitor and regulate than nonpoint source pollution because the sources are easily identifiable and there are federal laws and regulations governing their activity. For example, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), was established by the Clean Water Act. Under NPDES, factories, sewage treatment plants, and other point sources must obtain a permit from the state and EPA before they can discharge their waste or effluents into any body of water and the point source must use the latest technologies available to treat its effluents and reduce the level of pollutants.
What is Nonpoint Source Pollution?
Nonpoint source pollution comes from diffuse sources, such as agricultural runoff, precipitation, drainage, or seepage. When rain or melted snow moves over and through the ground, the water absorbs and assimilates any pollutants it encounters, like pesticides, fertilizers, sediment, and oil, and deposits them into a stream which eventually deposits them into a lake. There are numerous pollutants in the runoff, so it is difficult to point to a single origin and more complex to manage non-point sources.
Problems Caused by Lake Pollution
Whether from point sources or nonpoint sources, pollution is a major problem that can affect the health of the lake, the people and animals that live in and near it, and the natural environment around it. Today, nonpoint source (NPS) pollution remains the nation's largest source of water quality problems. In an EPA study of lake water quality, the agency found that of the surveyed water, approximately “45 percent had waters impaired for at least one type of use (for example as drinking water supply, for recreational fishing, swimming, or aquatic life support). When considering man-made lakes alone, the proportion that was impaired jumped to 59%.”
Here are some of the most common problems caused by lake pollution:
Algae Blooms, Muck, and Foul Odors. Although “nutrient” is a word with many positive meanings, when it comes to lake health, excessive nutrients are responsible for many of the most persistent problems found in polluted lakes. Nutrient pollution is the process where too many nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, are added to bodies of water and can act like fertilizer, causing excessive growth of algae. Much nutrient pollution comes from chemical fertilizer runoff which causes harmful algae blooms that deplete oxygen levels, leading to fish kills, the accumulation of muck at the lake's bottom, and foul odors.
Loss of Recreational Value. No one wants to swim or play in a foul-smelling, polluted lake. And they certainly don’t want their children to use them. Additionally, polluted water often contains pathogens that cause waterborne illnesses, negatively affecting public health and local tourism-dependent economies.
Ecosystem Disruption or Destruction. Lake pollution disrupts the delicate balance of aquatic ecosystems. The decline in water quality can harm native fish species, aquatic plants, and other organisms. Invasive species may thrive in these altered conditions, further damaging the natural ecosystem.
Decline in Property Values. Homes and properties located near polluted lakes may decline in value due to the decreased desirability of living near a contaminated water body. This can result in financial losses for homeowners and reduced tax revenues for local governments.
Preventing and Mitigating for the Control of Water Pollution
Caring for lakes and other bodies of water is an ongoing process that generally involves vigilance and coordination among different stakeholders. But the best way to care for a lake is to prevent pollution in the first place. Here are some ways to do that:
Minimize Rainfall Runoff. Perhaps the single most important step to prevent water pollution is to control the amount of pollutant that gets washed into the lake by rainfall. Some strategies for minimizing runoff:
- Planting vegetation around the lake that will absorb rain before it reaches the lake;
- Implementing sustainable gardening and landscaping practices;
- And using permeable paving surfaces around the lake.
Reduce Chemical Usage. Minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture and landscaping to prevent nutrient and chemical runoff into lakes. Replace chemical fertilizers and pesticides with sustainable farming methods like cover crops and no-till farming.
Proper Waste Disposal: Encourage proper disposal of household chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and hazardous materials to prevent them from entering the water supply.
Implement a Lake Management Plan. A lake management plan is essential to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of a lake or other body of water. A good plan includes goals for the lake, a management strategy for achieving them, and a water-quality monitoring system. Our blog on creating and implementing a lake management plan gives more details on how to do it.
Upgrade sewage treatment plants. The most common urban source of nutrient pollution is human sewage, so upgrading sewage treatment plants to discharge cleaner effluent is an obvious solution. Moleaer is a leader in non-chemical wastewater treatment systems that are highly effective in removing pollutants. In trials at wastewater plants, Moleaer’s system has achieved results like: 99.65% reduction in total suspended solids and 85% oxygen transfer efficiency.
Install Aeration Systems and Nanobubble Generators to Restore Lakes. Lack of oxygen (hypoxia) is a major cause of algae blooms. Good aeration systems that increase the amount of oxygen in the lake can mitigate or solve this problem.
Moleaer’s nanobubble systems treat the root cause of algae blooms and have been proven to promote natural lake restoration. While conventional aeration technologies achieve less than 3% oxygen transfer efficiency at standard conditions (SOTE) per foot of water, third-party testing confirms that Moleaer’s nanobubble technology achieves >85% SOTE in just 2 feet of water, enabling dissolved oxygen (DO) levels to increase while using far less oxygen than any other aeration technology.
Moleaer offers two nanobubble generators specifically designed for lakes and ponds, the Clear and the Kingfisher. Depending on the size of the water body and goals, Moleaer’s team of experts will help you pick the best nanobubble generator for you. Both are easy to install and maintain. Visit our product page to connect with an expert who can help you choose the right system for your needs.
Lakes are invaluable resources that deserve our protection and care. But they are threatened by pollution. There’s still time to put in place effective measures for saving them. Understanding the sources and consequences of lake pollution is the first step in ensuring their long-term health. Then, by implementing proactive measures, enforcing regulations, and using innovative technologies like Moleaer nanobubble systems, we can work together to control and prevent lake pollution, preserving these natural wonders for generations to come.