14. LIFE BELOW WATER

Despite being properly treated and highly diluted, wastewater still impacts on the river ecosystem

Despite being properly treated and highly diluted, wastewater still impacts on the river ecosystem
Written by ZJbTFBGJ2T

Despite being properly treated and highly diluted, wastewater still …  EurekAlert

Despite being properly treated and highly diluted, wastewater still impacts on the river ecosystem

Wastewater Treatment Plants and Their Impact on Freshwater Ecosystems

Introduction

Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) have played a crucial role in improving water quality worldwide. These plants have successfully reduced the quantity of pollutants reaching aquatic ecosystems through environmental regulatory procedures. However, even though the effluent discharged from WWTPs undergoes treatment, it still contains a complex mixture of pollutants, nutrients, and pathogens. The environmental effects of these residual substances, which may go unnoticed due to other factors, need to be thoroughly examined. This article explores the impact of treated wastewater on freshwater ecosystems and emphasizes the importance of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in addressing these issues.

Experimental Design

The Stream Ecology group at UPV/EHU conducted an innovative experiment to study the effects of WWTPs on freshwater ecosystems. The researchers measured various variables for one year in two reaches of an unpolluted stream to establish a baseline. This allowed them to understand how these stream variables changed over time and location. Subsequently, they diverted properly treated and highly diluted water from a WWTP to one of the downstream reaches. Measurements were taken in both reaches for another year to assess the changes brought about by the wastewater discharges on the stream’s diversity, trophic network, and ecosystem functioning.

Findings

The study revealed that even highly diluted treated wastewater can have significant effects on freshwater ecosystems. Although the toxicity of the effluent was low, there were noticeable changes in the structure and functioning of stream communities. Invertebrate diversity decreased, and communities became more heterogeneous. The amount of algae and herbivory increased, indicating a higher tendency to feed on plants. While the wastewater treatment process reduces certain pollutants, it also introduces nutrients that can promote algae growth and organic matter accumulation. This, in turn, can lead to the displacement of sensitive invertebrates by more resistant species.

Implications for Sustainable Development Goals

The findings of this study highlight the ongoing impact of advanced wastewater treatment processes on freshwater ecosystems. To ensure the conservation of freshwater food webs, it is essential to intensify efforts in treating polluted waters. Adhering to the limits stipulated by legislation helps reduce problems, but impacts are still generated. Optimal conservation of trophic networks in streams requires even more stringent treatments. By prioritizing SDGs related to clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), and life below water (SDG 14), we can work towards minimizing the negative effects of wastewater discharges on freshwater ecosystems.

Conclusion

The study demonstrates that treated and highly diluted wastewater continues to impact the diversity and energy fluxes of freshwater food webs. It underscores the need for enhanced wastewater treatment processes to mitigate these effects and ensure the long-term conservation of freshwater ecosystems. By aligning with SDGs, we can address these challenges and work towards a sustainable future.

SDGs, Targets, and Indicators

1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?

  • SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 14: Life Below Water
  • SDG 15: Life on Land

2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?

  • SDG 6.3: By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.
  • SDG 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, particularly from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.
  • SDG 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains, and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements.

3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?

  • Indicator for SDG 6.3: Proportion of wastewater safely treated
  • Indicator for SDG 14.1: Concentration of nutrients in coastal waters
  • Indicator for SDG 15.1: Proportion of freshwater ecosystems with good water quality

Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators

SDGs Targets Indicators
SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation 6.3: By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally. Proportion of wastewater safely treated
SDG 14: Life Below Water 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, particularly from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution. Concentration of nutrients in coastal waters
SDG 15: Life on Land 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains, and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements. Proportion of freshwater ecosystems with good water quality

Explanation:

The article discusses the environmental effects of treated wastewater discharges from wastewater treatment plants on aquatic ecosystems. These issues are connected to several SDGs:

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

The article highlights the importance of improving water quality by reducing pollution and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials. The treated wastewater discharges can have significant effects on the ecosystem, indicating the need for better wastewater treatment processes.

SDG 14: Life Below Water

The article mentions that the treated wastewater discharges can lead to increased nutrient levels in the stream, which can impact marine ecosystems. This highlights the need to prevent and reduce marine pollution, including nutrient pollution.

SDG 15: Life on Land

The article emphasizes the impact of treated wastewater discharges on freshwater ecosystems and their food webs. It calls for the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems to ensure their health and functioning.

Based on the content of the article, specific targets under these SDGs can be identified:

SDG 6.3: By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.

The article highlights the need to improve water quality by reducing pollution from treated wastewater discharges. This aligns with the target of halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and increasing safe reuse globally.

SDG 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, particularly from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.

The article mentions that treated wastewater discharges can contribute to nutrient pollution in coastal waters. This target aims to prevent and reduce marine pollution, including nutrient pollution from land-based activities.

SDG 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains, and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements.

The article emphasizes the need for the conservation and sustainable use of freshwater ecosystems impacted by treated wastewater discharges. This target focuses on ensuring the health and functioning of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems.

The article mentions or implies several indicators that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets:

Indicator for SDG 6.3: Proportion of wastewater safely treated

The article discusses the importance of treating wastewater to reduce its impact on freshwater ecosystems. The proportion of wastewater that is safely treated can be used as an indicator to measure progress towards this target.

Indicator for SDG 14.1: Concentration of nutrients in coastal waters

The article highlights that treated wastewater discharges can contribute to nutrient pollution in coastal waters. Monitoring the concentration of nutrients in these waters can serve as an indicator to assess progress in reducing marine pollution, including nutrient pollution.

Indicator for SDG 15.1: Proportion of freshwater ecosystems with good water quality

The article emphasizes the impact of treated wastewater discharges on freshwater ecosystems. Monitoring the proportion of freshwater ecosystems with good water quality can help measure progress towards the conservation and restoration of these ecosystems.

Behold! This splendid article springs forth from the wellspring of knowledge, shaped by a wondrous proprietary AI technology that delved into a vast ocean of data, illuminating the path towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Remember that all rights are reserved by SDG Investors LLC, empowering us to champion progress together.

Source: eurekalert.org

 

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