Big Water Trouble in Leaky China
Photo via China Daily News
China's "Dead Lakes" Keep Reappearing
Two years ago, an algae outbreak in China's renowned Tai Lake sounded a global environmental alarm. Now, despite China spending billions of dollars on lake cleanup efforts, some algae has returned. And similar poisonous blue-green algal blooms that have been cropping up in other lakes across the country as well, according to Greenpeace. This is alarming news for both China's residents and its already imperiled ecosystems: the pollution can be deadly to wildlife and make drinking water hazardous.
Greenpeace thinks it's found the culprit, however—and it isn't just the smog-spewing factories or dumped garbage.
It's leaked fertilizer.
Chemical Fertilizers in the Water Supply
According to Greenpeace, the chemical fertilizers used for agriculture leak into nearby lakes and help spawn the algal blooms. And the use of such fertilizers only seems to be increasing:
"The government ran a nationwide program (2005 to 2007) to reduce fertilizer use, but Greenpeace has found that many farmers have in fact increased the amount of chemical fertilizers they use despite this initiative . . . farmers around the lake told us they were now using twice as much fertilizer as they were using 10 years ago."
The organization then tested Lake Tai's water quality (after the 14 billion dollar cleanup effort, remember), and found the following:
"Of the 25 water samples we examined, 20 of them had such high concentrations of nitrogen and nitrates (found in fertilizers) that they were not safe for human use. They were even too polluted to be used to water plants or in factories."
Big Water Trouble in Fertilizer-Leaking China
If Greenpeace is right, and a bulk of the blame lies in the fertilizers, it certainly presents a dire scenario for China's water resources—it's estimated that fertilizer use increases between 2 or 3 million tons every year. Something certainly needs to be done to spare China's water (just look at this picture of samples collected from various Chinese rivers and lakes), or the Chinese are going to end up with an unpleasantly colorful "natural" beverage selection.