What can we all do, working together, to protect and revitalize our oceans? That is the theme of this year’s World Oceans Day on June 8: “Revitalization: Collective action for the ocean.” At Xylem, we work with customers and partners to make our waterways and oceans cleaner and safer. We treat wastewater to remove pollutants and monitor water to measure red tides and water quality.
No matter where you live, your life is directly linked to the health of the world’s oceans. According to the UN, the world’s oceans provide 50% of our oxygen, and they absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, helping to reduce the impacts of global warming. The world’s oceans are also the main source of protein for more than a billion people.
The bad news is that the health of the world’s oceans is at a tipping point. A recent study from an international group of researchers, “Human Health and Ocean Pollution,” found that “pollution of the oceans is widespread, worsening, and in most countries poorly controlled.”
The study found that ocean pollution is harming human health, increasing risks for cardiovascular disease, dementia, learning disorders, damage to the nervous system and cancer. The researchers also noted the unfair distribution of the risks: “All of the health impacts of ocean pollution fall disproportionately on vulnerable populations in the Global South – environmental injustice on a planetary scale.”
Ocean pollution is primarily caused by human activities and is a mix of toxic metals, plastics, manufactured chemicals, petroleum, urban and industrial wastes, pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceutical chemicals, agricultural runoff and sewage. According to the National Ocean Service, 80% of ocean pollution comes from the land. To solve ocean pollution, we must stop pollution on the land before it enters rivers and our oceans.
Two ways Xylem, our customers and partners are helping to protect the oceans:
1. Smarter wastewater treatment solutions
Xylem’s solutions help communities efficiently treat wastewater to safely return it to the environment. Recently on Boracay Island in The Philippines, a Xylem treatment solution was used as part of a project to improve environmental practices on the island. Tourism over the years had taken its toll, leading to severely polluted waters and beaches.
A sewage treatment plan on the island had been disinfecting its wastewater with chlorine, which led to chlorine byproducts in the effluent that harmed marine life. Xylem’s ultraviolet Wedeco disinfection system now provides the island with a sustainable solution for wastewater treatment, without any negative effects on the sea environment. Read more about it here.
In another example, wastewater treatment plants regularly monitor the amount of nitrogen in their effluent. This is because too much nitrogen in waterways and oceans can cause algae to grow faster than the environment can handle, leading to toxic algal blooms and oxygen-deprived water that kills marine life. Xylem conducted a pilot study with a coastal water utility in Northern Europe to demonstrate that predictive analytics could help the utility optimize nitrogen removal processes. The study showed that Xylem’s digital solution could potentially reduce nitrogen in effluent by 30%. Learn more about that study and other recent ocean research here.
2. Advanced water monitoring solutions
Water monitoring plays an important role in understanding the health of our oceans, pollution, climate change and the effectiveness of environmental policies. In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, Florida uses several types of monitoring programs to track red tides, a type of harmful algal bloom, in order provide critical information to the public, policymakers and scientists. The state monitors red tides using cell counts, satellites and water quality data collected with Xylem’s YSI multiparameter sondes. You can read more about the monitoring programs here.
Xylem’s water monitoring solutions also help ensure that water quality standards are being met. Recently, India’s Environmental Ministry set out to earn a Blue Flag accreditation for several beaches. The Blue Flag program recognizes beaches that meet a long list of criteria, from water quality and sustainable environmental management to extensive safety measures. At Shivrajpur Beach, a special commission deployed Xylem’s YSI brand EMM68 buoy, equipped with a YSI EXO2 multiparameter water quality sonde. The water quality readings helped India achieve Blue Flag accreditation for the beach, along with seven others.