Phosphates and dissolved oxygen Essay

This essay has a total of 839 words and 4 pages.

Phosphates and dissolved oxygen


Phosphates are present in many natural waters, such as lakes and streams. Phosphates are
essential to aquatic plant growth, but too much phosphate can lead to the growth of algae
and results in an algae bloom. Too much algae can cause a decrease in the amount in
dissolved oxygen in the water. Oxygen in water is affected in many different ways by
phosphates

Phosphorus is usually present in natural waters as phosphate(Mcwelsh and Raintree, 1998).
Phosphates are present in fertilizers and laundry detergents and can enter the water from
agricultural runoff, industrial waste, and sewage discharge (Outwater,1996) . Phosphates,
like nitrates, are plant nutrients (Phosphates, 1997). When too much phosphate enters a
water, plant growth flourishes (Phosphates). Phosphates also stimulate the growth of algae
which can result in an algae bloom(World Book Encyclopedia,1999). . Algae blooms are
easily recognized as layers of green slime, and can eventually cover the water's surface.
As the plants and algae grow, they choke out other organisms. These large plant
populations produce oxygen in the upper layers of the water but when the plants die and
fall to the bottom, they are decomposed by bacteria which use a lot of the dissolved
oxygen in the lower layers (Phosphates). Bodies of water with high levels of phosphates
usually have high biological oxygen demand (BOD) levels due to the bacteria consuming the
organic plant waste and subsequent low dissolved oxygen levels(Hooper,1998).

The addition of large quantities of phosphates to waterways accelerates algae and plant
growth in natural waters (Hooper), enhancing eutrophication and depleting the water body
of oxygen. This can lead to fish kills and the degradation of habitat with loss

Boyington 5
of species. Large mats of algae can form and in severe cases can completely cover small
lakes. Dying plants and algae will create phosphates while decaying, as a result, water
can become putrid from decaying organic matter (World Book Encyclopedia). When the
concentration of phosphates rises above 100 mg/liter the coagulation processes in drinking
water treatment plants may be adversely affected (World Book Encyclopedia). Manmade
sources of phosphate include human sewage, agricultural run-off from crops, sewage from
animal feedlots, pulp and paper industry, vegetable and fruit processing, chemical and
fertilizer manufacturing, and detergents.

Dissolved oxygen is one of the best indicators of the health of a water ecosystem.
Dissolved oxygen can range from 0-18 parts per million (ppm), but most natural water
systems require 5-6 parts per million to support a diverse population (Phosphates).
Dissolved oxygen levels change and vary according to the time of day, the weather and the
temperature. If yearly comparisons are made on dissolved oxygen levels, they should be
done at the same time of day, during the same season and on a day with a temperature
variation of only 10 degrees Celsius from the previous reading (Phosphates). A decrease in
the dissolved oxygen levels is usually an indication of an influx of some type of organic
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