THERE IS A $10 MILLION FRESHWATER INNOVATION CHALLENGE
Are you a revolutionary thinker?
The Everglades Foundation is dedicating four years and a grand prize of $10 million dollars to showing the world just how serious phosphorus water pollution is.
The Everglades Foundation’s George Barley Water Prize, presented by Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, is the largest water prize of its kind. It will spur innovation and uncover new technologies, solving the issue of phosphorus pollution.
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.
A number 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.
90% of all drinking water comes from freshwater sources. More than 15,000 freshwater bodies around the world are now in peril because of nutrient pollution, and each year we are starting to feel the consequences.
The algae bloom 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 water-bodies 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.
What are blue-green algae, and why are they a problem?
Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, is a filmy, paint-like scum that has been discovered on many water bodies across the country in recent years. Combinations of warm water and higher levels of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous, allow the algae to proliferate.
Sometimes the algae contain toxins, called microcystins. Toxic blooms are known as harmful algal blooms, or HABs, and can cause health problems in humans and animals. According to the Cayuga County Health Department, contact with blue-green algae toxins can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat and inflammation of the respiratory tract. Consuming the toxins can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and nervous system.
The health department said people should avoid swimming and recreate in water that is discolored or filmy in appearance. It also said people should never drink, prepare food, cook or make ice with untreated surface water.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a drinking water health advisory for cyanobacteria toxins in 2015. It said for children under the age of 6, safe levels of short-term exposure are at or below .3 micrograms per liter. For children and adults over the age of 6, the advisory level is at or below 1.6 micrograms per liter.
Animals or people experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, irritation of the skin, eyes, or respiratory system after being exposed to a suspected or confirmed bloom should see a doctor or veterinarian.