Harmful algae blooms are becoming an increasingly pressing problem in water bodies worldwide, harming not just the wildlife that inhabits the water body, but also animals and human populations living nearby.
The presence of harmful algae intensifies with heat. While it’s most problematic during the summer months, the steady rise in global temperatures as a result of climate change overall means the size and frequency of harmful algae blooms are increasing year-on-year. However, there’s a new, chemical-free and scalable treatment method for tackling algae that uses tiny air bubbles called ‘nanobubbles’.
Let’s start by acknowledging that not all algae is harmful. Toxic algae, commonly blue-green in freshwater or red tide in marine systems, is toxic because it releases toxins that are harmful to wildlife and humans. There have been many cases where toxic algae have led to fish dying as a result of depleted oxygen levels, and of dogs dying after drinking water containing toxic algae.
Algae outbreaks have been linked to human health issues too. Until recently, concerns with toxic algae blooms had focused on people that have had direct contact with lakes and rivers, whether that’s holiday-makers going for a swim in a lake, or consuming contaminated drinking water. However, new research proves that living in close proximity has serious health repercussions too.
A new report published in The Journal of Harmful Algae showed the presence of microcystin, a chemical toxin produced by blooms of blue-green algae, in the nasal passages of almost all of its 125 coastal residents of Florida that were tested - and some hadn’t come into direct contact with contaminated water. These residents are more susceptible to skin irritations, headaches, respiratory issues, Alzheimer's and ALS.
Traditionally, aquatic management companies have relied on two methods for managing algae blooms in lakes and ponds: namely, chemicals (algaecides and alum) and conventional aeration.
Algaecides directly control algae by breaking down algae cells while alum removes phosphate (a known stimulant of algae blooms) from water by causing it to settle to the bottom of the waterbody. Aeration is used to dissolve and circulate oxygen in a waterbody in an effort to reduce nutrient levels that contribute to algae blooms. While chemicals and aeration can reduce the severity of algae blooms, there are environmental consequences and financial setbacks with both treatment methods.
That’s why a new industry has emerged globally, which injects trillions of nanobubbles - tiny bubbles that are 2,500 times smaller than a grain of table salt - into water bodies to treat harmful algae. Nanobubbles improve the health of the aquatic ecosystems, removing harmful algae, through a process known as lysing, degrading potentially dangerous algae toxins, and increasing oxygen levels for beneficial aerobic bacteria and aquatic life.
Typically bubbles float to the surface. However, nanobubbles follow a process called Brownian motion, which means these tiny bubbles stay suspended in the water for a long time, moving throughout the water in a random pattern.
Nanobubbles are a highly efficient and scalable treatment method. Nanobubbles dissolve nearly all their oxygen, with an efficiency rate of over 85 percent, even in shallow, warm or saline waters. In comparison, traditional aeration has an oxygen transfer rate of about 1-3 percent per foot of water.
Nanobubbles are effective at delivering oxygen in a wide variety of water bodies. Traditional aeration struggles to deliver oxygen to the sediment layer, regardless of water depth, and becomes impractical in water bodies shallower than 8ft deep due to decreased mixing efficiency. Nanobubbles are not constrained by these issues.
This is all achieved without the use of chemicals, which is much better from an environmental perspective. Along with treating algae, nanobubbles reduce turbidity and improve water clarity, and eliminate odors that are released from the anoxic muck layer.
Moleaer is the leading nanobubble technology company that is tackling algae outbreaks, and it is now launching its next-generation Clear nanobubble generator specifically designed to clean waterbodies impacted by algae.
Moleaer’s nanobubble generators have already been proven to treat all kinds of water bodies, from reservoirs such as Bolinas in Northern California to dozens of ponds in Florida managed by SOLitude Lake Management, the leading pond management company in the US. Moleaer is now applying its nanobubble technology to sectors beyond the water industry, including agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture, among others.
Treating water, whether it’s a small pond or a large lake, can be a challenge - and this challenge is only going to intensify with climate change. Traditional methods of chemical treatment and conventional aeration can have disadvantages, both environmental and economical. The fast-growing nanobubble industry provides the water sector with a scalable, cost-efficient, and chemical-free solution to prevent harmful algae outbreaks in almost any water body.