Phosphate is an essential nutrient for all living organisms, but when it enters water bodies in excess, it can cause environmental problems. This is because an increase in phosphate levels stimulates the growth of aquatic plants and algae, leading to excessive growth and decreased water quality, known as eutrophication. This can result in a range of ecological and economic impacts, including the degradation of habitats and loss of biodiversity, increased costs for drinking water treatment, and decreased recreational values.
Burrow Environmental is working on a range of measures that can be put in place to create positive change by reducing the phosphate burden on watercourses and wildlife habitats throughout the counties of the South West.
Phosphate Mitigation, the process of reducing phosphate levels in the environment, is essential in South West England where the issue of eutrophication is particularly acute. The South West is home to a number of sensitive environments, including estuaries, rivers, lakes, and coastal waters, which are vulnerable to eutrophication and are facing significant ecological and economic impacts as a result.
The main sources of phosphate in South West England are from human activities, such as septic tank and sewage treatment works runoff as well as that from agricultural land, and the discharge of effluent from livestock farms. These sources can contribute significant amounts of phosphate to the environment, especially during high rainfall events, which can increase the amount of runoff and the concentration of phosphate in rivers and estuaries.
To mitigate the impact of these sources, the South West requires effective and integrated approaches to reducing phosphate levels in the environment. These approaches should consider the full lifecycle of phosphate, from its production and use to its disposal, and the potential for reducing releases from each stage.
One of the key strategies for reducing the impact of phosphate in South West England is the implementation of best management practices in agriculture and wastewater treatment. This includes the use of best practice fertiliser application techniques, such as precision farming and nutrient management, to ensure that only the required amount of fertilisers are applied, and that they are applied at the right time and in the right place. It also involves improving the efficiency of wastewater treatment, reducing the amount of phosphorus released into the environment, and enhancing the removal of phosphorus in the treatment process.
Another important strategy is the promotion of sustainable land use practices, such as reducing soil erosion and promoting the use of cover crops, which can help reduce the amount of phosphorus entering water bodies and contribute to a more sustainable and resilient environment. In addition, the use of green infrastructure, such as green roofs and rain gardens, can help reduce the amount of runoff entering waterways and reduce the amount of phosphorus reaching water bodies.
In addition to these on-land strategies, the South West also requires effective management of its waterways and coastal waters to reduce the impact of eutrophication. This involves reducing the amount of phosphorus entering waterways through better stormwater management and reducing the amount of phosphorus entering coastal waters through the use of best practice management of discharges from sewage treatment works and livestock farms.
Finally, effective monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of phosphate mitigation strategies is essential in ensuring that these approaches are effective and achieving their desired outcomes. This requires the use of reliable and consistent monitoring methods, such as the use of monitoring networks and remote sensing, to assess the impact of mitigation strategies and identify areas where further improvements can be made.
In conclusion, phosphate mitigation is an important and pressing issue in South West England, where the issue of eutrophication is causing significant ecological and economic impacts. Effective approaches to reducing phosphate levels in the environment, including best management practices in agriculture and wastewater treatment, the promotion of sustainable land use practices, effective management of waterways and coastal waters, and effective monitoring and evaluation, are necessary to ensure that the region’s sensitive environments are protected and preserved for future generations.