In Australia, Drying Lakes Means Acidic Dust, Potential Health Threats, and Major Bioremediation Efforts
Photo via aloshbennett via Flickr CC
As water levels drop in two Australian lakes, the threat of pollution from sulphuric dust arises. Officials are starting to worry that as the artificial pumping of freshwater into two protected lakes at the mouth of Murray River, which has helped keep the lakes' water levels high enough, becomes less of an option, along with continually decreasing water levels, the lake-bed soils that turn acidic when exposed to the air could be an ecological disaster, and a health threat to people living near the lakes. EcoWorldly reports on an article in The Age, which discusses the big problems of drying lakes beyond just losing fresh water.
The problem is that when exposed to the air, lake-bed soils turn to sulphuric acid, and now the water levels can't be kept artificially high due to drought problems. Officials are looking to solve the problem through a "bioremediation" initiative that includes planting certain flora species and spreading limestone particles across exposed soils.
Not only could the dust significantly harm the ecosystems of the lakes, but there are also concerns that people living near them will experience health effects from the dust blowing off the dry beds.
According to the article, some of the smaller streams that feed the lakes are already at pH levels of acidity that match or exceed that of battery acid. This is bioremediation effort is the first of its kind at this scale. But it sounds like it's fixing a problem caused by a bigger problem that needs some focus as well.
Australia's drought is forcing officials and researchers to take some significant strides on water conservation, drought management, and water pollution. Unfortunately, the continent is acting as guinea pig for the rest of the world as the water crisis intensifies; but their advancements in technology and techniques mean faster solutions for the rest of us in the future.
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