This year in Lake Erie’s Presque Isle Bay, a group of stalwart fishermen with an underwater camera were rewarded with an unexpected view: plenty of walleye swimming around. They caught more than a dozen of the good-sized fish and watched their neighbors catch them, too. More keeper-sized fish are in the lake and Presque Isle Bay this year, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has taken notice.
For many people in America, the water crisis in Flint appears to be over. However, people are still struggling with water quality in Flint, and across the country. Aging infrastructure continues to put various populations at risk, and new reports of poor water quality and violative “hot spots” bring home the point that we’ve got a long way to go before all Americans have safe drinking water to access all of the time.
We all rely upon a steady supply of clean water. In some communities, that water supply is more closely tied to agriculture than others. For agricultural communities with small watersheds, every decision made by each user has a major impact on water wells, the surrounding landscape, and on nutrient levels in waterways even far away. Today, many local farmers are working to implement conservation practices to improve and protect water quality. ...
Like a strangely plump, foot-long, glowing ribbon, a translucent soft robot is swimming silently through saltwater tanks in California. The robot is a product of the Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab within the UC San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs School of Engineering. “This design was inspired by the eel larva, also known as leptocephalus,” UCSD engineering PhD student Caleb Christianson explains to EM. “These eels are transparent and are able to swim silently through the water.”
For the first time in two centuries, herring are heading north in Massachusetts via Mill River. A diadromous species, herring spend the majority of their lives in salt water, venturing into freshwater only once a year. Like salmon, herring swim up river instinctively to spawn, making the upstream journey crucial to the survival of the species.
The State of Colorado has recently adopted new standards targeting perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in water. The change rests on the events of the past few years, during which the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instructed states and municipalities to investigate their public water systems for these PFCs. Federal Facilities Remediation and Restoration Unit Leader Tracie White with the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division (HMWMD) of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) discussed the change in standards with EM.
For 20 years now, interested parties have been monitoring water quality in Mirror Lake, a relatively small lake nestled in upstate New York’s Adirondack Park. This area is a getaway for many urbanites, but the smaller population doesn’t mean the lake’s water quality isn’t under threat. In fact, concentrated patches of development have led to increasing salt and chloride levels that locals are now working to lower.
Researchers from Shinshu University in Japan have used carbon nanotubes to develop robust reverse osmosis membranes that can withstand water desalination on a large scale. This technology may be able to improve efficiency and reduce the costs of desalination in a world experiencing a growing need for clean water. Morinobu Endo, a distinguished professor at Shinshu University and the Institute of Carbon Science and Technology‘s Honorary Director, corresponded with EM about this research.
Researchers in Sweden have discovered a slow-growing yet thirsty aquatic moss, Warnstorfia fluitans, that can remove arsenic from drinking water—quickly. The Stockholm University (SU) study found that in a single hour, the moss can reduce the arsenic level low enough to render previously non-potable water safe to drink. More than 15 million American households—about 60 million people—rely upon wells for their drinking water. . . .
As people clear and log tropical forests around the world, scientists from the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and other advocacy organizations have investigated the impact of that clearing and logging. Now, they have concluded that among the devastating consequences caused by the loss of native forests is reduced water quality in areas downstream from logging activities.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) are using silent Seaglider marine robots to listen to and record underwater sounds in the world’s oceans. About the same size as a human diver would be, the robots can travel the oceans for months, communicating with their pilots as they journey, helping to create an underwater soundscape of the oceans of the world.
For the past decade or so, Dr. Bernard Laval, a civil engineer with the University of Northern BC in Canada, has been researching Quesnel Lake, a large, deep lake with unusual water dynamics. This allowed him an unusually high level of insight into much of what makes the lake tick—and when Mount Polley Mine (MPM) experienced a breach in 2014, causing materials to be deposited into Quesnel Lake, he already had a sense of what the lake’s waters looked like.
Since the 1980s, scientists from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) have been sampling water from acid-impaired ponds and lakes and tracking data related to acidity. The line of inquiry began in response to concerns about acid rain, but DEC scientists now find that the long-term monitoring is not only proving the efficacy of the Clean Air Act but also improving local water quality.
In the ongoing quest for better wastewater treatment, a team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have developed a technique to improve the way Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs) remove pollutants from wastewater dramatically. AOPs remove organic materials from water using oxidation. These AOP reactions take place when hydrogen peroxide, a powerful oxidizing agent, decomposes, leaving hydroxyl radicals along with oxygen and water behind.
Wetlands are one of nature’s plans for treating water. Home to a host of different microbes, riparian wetland soils play matchmaker to nutrient-rich runoff and bacteria that feast on nutrients and other environmental toxins. Princeton University researchers have discovered one such bacterium—Acidimicrobiaceae bacterium A6—that can break down ammonium, part of both fertilizer and sewage runoff, without oxygen. This ability could mean wastewater treatment without expensive aeration machinery.