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  • Writer's pictureHydroPhos Team

How Climate Change is Fueling Eutrophication

Eutrophication is an ecological phenomenon found throughout the world that occurs when bodies of water have an excess amount of certain nutrients, typically phosphorus or nitrogen. The excess nutrients cause rapid growth of algae and other aquatic plants. When the algae decomposes, oxygen levels in the water are depleted, leading to the formation of "dead zones", where aquatic life struggles to survive due to the lack of oxygen. This process fundamentally alters the balance of aquatic ecosystems and decreases water quality. 

Eutrophic Body of Water in Florida, Image Source

The process of eutrophication produces methane, which is then released into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat within Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore, it is very important that we work to reduce methane emissions while we aim to slow climate change. Finding ways to reduce eutrophication is just one of many actions we can take to reduce methane emissions. 

As climate change progresses, eutrophication continues to become a greater problem. At current rates of population growth and climate change progression, instances of eutrophication are expected to increase by 25% to 200% by 2050. As the planet becomes warmer, aquatic algae blooms become more plentiful and more dense since algae grows faster in warmer water. Warmer water temperatures have also been shown to increase the release of nutrients from lake sediments, providing even more nutrients to fuel algae growth. Additionally, as sea levels continue to rise, a higher percentage of the Earth’s surface will be covered in water which provides more locations for eutrophication to occur. Additionally, climate change is expected to cause more intense storms, increasing the amount of intense rainfalls (such as hurricanes) that increase the amount of stormwater runoff. More runoff will increase the amount of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, that are being washed from land into our lakes and rivers.  

In cold climates that receive snow, warming winters are also contributing to more nutrient runoff entering bodies of water. Historically, cold winters and snowpack froze excess nutrients, including phosphorus and nitrogen, in place during the winter. In spring, once warmer weather caused the snowpack and ice to melt, plants would  absorb some of the nutrients stored in the ice and snow before the snow melt reached a river or lake. Due to warming winters, many colder climates are now receiving more rainfall during the winter months. This rain washes phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients into lakes and rivers. Since most plants are dormant in the winter, they absorb significantly reduced levels of nutrients before they enter bodies of water, so the nutrients are going straight into our waterways where they can directly contribute to instances of eutrophication. 

Winter Runoff, Image Source

Eutrophication and climate change is like a reinforcing feedback loop: eutrophication contributes to climate change and climate change contributes to eutrophication. That’s why it’s so important that we find a way to stop eutrophication, which is exactly what HydroPhos Solutions aims to do. HydroPhos utilizes phosphorus filtration technology to extract phosphorus from wastewater, preventing phosphorus in wastewater from further entering bodies of water and preventing that phosphorus from contributing to eutrophication. 


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