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Scientists agree that there are some boundaries in the earth’s ecology that cannot be crossed. One of those is the level of nutrients in our freshwater bodies. In the last decade we have begun to cross that boundary.

The amount of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) we put into our lakes, rivers, and watersheds is of critical concern. Nutrients from agricultural sources and municipal wastewater often wash over into freshwater bodies, diminishing vital wildlife, threatening human health, tipping fragile ecosystems towards collapse, and destroying drinking water supplies.

Toledo Drinking Water90% of all drinking water comes from freshwater sources. More than 15,000 freshwater bodies around the world are now in peril because of nutrient pollution, and each year we are starting to feel the consequences.

The algae blooms caused by nutrient pollution are impacting water bodies in all 50 states, and are conservatively estimated to cost the U.S. economy between $2.2 billion and $4.6 billion annually.

Removing even a small fraction of the damaging phosphorus pollution using existing technology would cost more than $3 trillion worldwide.

The Environmental Protection Agency calls it “one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems.”

Boat Through Algae WaterHistorically, the responsibility to select the best technologies to protect waterbodies has been left to government agencies, or individual companies working on local problems.

There have been efforts to remove excess phosphorus from water, both at the source and downstream. Neither has produced the large-scale, cost-effective innovative solutions the world so desperately needs to solve our global freshwater crisis.

A different approach is needed… and the Everglades Foundation has created a bold and innovative way to find it: challenging the free market and entrepreneurs through the $10 Million George Barley Water Prize.

For a good explanation of the science of the algae issue, read this article.