FRESHWATER IS THE WORLD’S MOST ENDANGERED RESOURCE
Scientists agree that there are some boundaries in the earth’s ecology that cannot be crossed. One of those is the level of nutrients in our freshwater bodies. In the last decade we have begun to cross that boundary.
The amount of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) we put into our lakes, rivers, and watersheds is of critical concern. Nutrients from agricultural sources and municipal wastewater often wash over into freshwater bodies, diminishing vital wildlife, threatening human health, tipping fragile ecosystems towards collapse, and destroying drinking water supplies.
A US study found that the cost per
kilogram to remove Phosphorus caused
from $8 to $420 per kilogram. Even using
median costs, the potential global coat
to address 52% of Phosphorus from
point sources waste exceed
$200 Billion per year. wide.
WHY IT MATTERS
90% of all drinking water comes from freshwater sources. More than 15,000 water bodies around the United States are now in peril because of nutrient pollution, and each year we are starting to feel the consequences. The algae blooms caused by nutrient pollution are impacting water bodies in all 50 states, and are conservatively estimated to cost the U.S. economy between $2.2 billion and $4.6 billion annually. Removing even a small fraction of the damaging phosphorus pollution using existing technology would cost more than $3 trillion worldwide. The Environmental Protection Agency calls it -
“One of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems.”
Historically, the responsibility to select the best technologies to protect waterbodies has been left to government agencies, or individual companies working on local problems. There have been efforts to remove excess phosphorus from water, both at the source and downstream. Neither has produced the large-scale, cost-effective innovative solutions the world so desperately needs to solve our global freshwater crisis.
A different approach is needed… and The Everglades Foundation has created a bold and innovative way to find it: challenging the free market and entrepreneurs through the $10 Million George Barley Water Prize.
FOR A GOOD EXPLANATION OF THE SCIENCE OF THE ALGAE ISSUE, READ THIS ARTICLE.
Phosphorus pollution, and the Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) that result, have dire economic consequences on the communities they affect. Decreased real estate values, health care costs, losses in tourism revenues and the cost of cleaning up the mess have all been associated with this vexing issue:
Health Costs: On average, $22 million is lost annually (figure includes medical expenses and lost work days) during HAB events.
Fisheries Costs: The annual impact of HABs to commercial fisheries has been estimated to vary between $13 – $25 million dollars, with an annual average impact of $18 million (2000 dollars). 1
Tourism Losses: While “red tides” are caused by a different algae, one study in the Florida panhandle estimated that nearly $6.5 million dollars in economic losses were incurred from 1995-2000 by local restaurants and hotels. 2 It’s no surprise that tourists don’t visit areas affected by HABs.
Real estate values in Florida’s Lee and Martin counties were found to vary due to levels of Phosphorus pollution and resultant water quality by $428 – $541 million dollars. 3
These impacts are replicated around the globe, as communities from Africa to New Zealand, Japan to Peru, throughout Asia and Europe cope with their freshwater bodies suffering from HABs.
In 2016, The Everglades Foundation introduced the largest Water Prize in history, The George Barley Water Prize. Named after visionary co-founder, George Barley, the Prize is designed to inspire groundbreaking innovation to remove excess phosphorus from freshwater sources. This competition holds the promise of delivering new cost-effective technologies to clean polluted fresh water and
reverse an environmental catastrophe that has been decades in the making.
The Prize was designed to mimic the stages of technological development
as the competition moves forward.