The impact of algae on an ecosystem is highly dependent on the circumstances in which the algae are growing. While algae in nutrient rich warm waters can bloom out of control and damage the ecosystem, it may also serve as a natural bioremediator in controlled growth conditions. The extremely fast growth potential of algae allows them to consume waterborne contaminants very quickly providing cleaner water. In nature this acts as a bio-load control mechanism never allowing ecosystem imbalance to occur. Alternatively, when human influences cause increases in Nitrogenous and Phosphorous compound loading rates or sudden onset compound loading the natural balancing mechanism of algae can temporarily overload an ecosystem causing very damaging effects from blooms.
As we have seen these effects over the last several decades controls have been put in place for our waste outputs with perhaps one of the most innovative techniques being controlled algae growth in industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste treatment facilities. Allowing algae to perform its natural role before our waste enters the environment allows ecological disasters to be avoided and can accomplish a lot more than just bloom prevention.
Algae for instance require many metals for natural metabolic processes in nature. Since these metals are scarce in the environment algae have developed mechanisms for greater uptake of metals as a natural evolutionary advantage. When applied to bioremediation of waste water sources this makes algae very efficient at scrubbing heavy metals from very contaminated water sources.1 Algae also use CO2 as a primary nutrient for growth and metabolism, and have been shown to be highly adept at removing CO2 from point source pollution sources like flue gas from coal plants.2 Algae have also demonstrated promise in fracking a notoriously damaging process of fossil fuel recovery that provides significant waste water output needing to be cleaned.*
While for many clean water is not an issue today the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research Group (BAMLGRG) reported about 768 million people have no access to clean water currently, and that as populations continue to rise global freshwater demands will exceed supply by 2030. The BAMLGRG further reports that a major point of conflict between countries in the future will be over water supplies with as much as 45% of GDP dedicated to securing water.3 In the US alone California represents a significant reminder to the importance of water supplies with over 80% of the state in severe drought and a 2.2 billion dollar impact on agriculture in 2014 alone.4
So the impact of algae on the wastewater cleaning industry is significant and is currently demonstrated in a myriad of forms including Photo Bio-Reactor (PBR) systems, Open Raceway systems, PBR/Open Raceway hybrids, and Turf Scrubbers. The only difficulty in operating these algal scrubbing systems is determining what to do with the algal biomass created. That is where innovators like Algix can provide solutions to add value to a byproduct of environmental damage prevention through plastic inclusion. Algix now works with some of the leaders in algae wastewater treatment to provide solutions to municipal, agricultural, or industrial wastewater treatment operations through our Algix Water Solutions division.