World Water Day 2022

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Picture of a river

To celebrate World Water Day 2022, we are highlighting some of our research on river abuse:

Slow Violence and River Abuse: The Hidden Effect of Land Use on Water Quality

Associated staff, researchers and companies:

In England, no river achieves good chemical status, only 14% achieve good ecological status and none achieve both good chemical and ecological status according to the European Water Framework Directive. The deteriorating quality of our river systems is a result of pollution runoff events from storm water discharge, sewage discharge and land mismanagement. Pollution from sewage discharge and land misuse (e.g. agricultural chemical runoff) can result in diminishing water quality through increased nutrient availability in rivers. The increased availability of nutrients in rivers can lead to algal blooms and eutrophication events. Eutrophication events negatively impact the quality of freshwater systems as light penetration becomes limited as sheets of algae cover surfaces. This then leads to reduced oxygen availability, which greatly impacts the microbial and aquatic life beneath the surface. The addition of excess nutrients or contaminants into our river systems can be describes as “slow violence”. Slow violence in the environment is the mid- to long-term damage or mismanagement that results in adverse effects may not always obvious: out of sight, out of mind.

An ongoing collaborative project between the Centre for Research in Biosciences, the Centre for Fine Print Research and Somerset Wildlife Trust is seeking to address slow violence in the form of how land-use can affect freshwater quality. This project intends to identify the effect of key nutrients and contaminants that are associated with excessive algal growth. This data will be integrated and interpreted in the form of traditional printmaking and experimental photographic processes. The printed outputs will investigate and respond to the relationship between land use and aquatic health. Produced artwork will be exhibited to allow for engagement with audiences and seeks to start conversations around the issue of declining water quality of our rivers and the effect of slow violence.

This multidisciplinary project is an example of interdisciplinary collaborations that are being created and nurtured as part of a new UWE Bristol-wide Healthy Waters Initiative Research Cluster. The Healthy Waters Initiative seeks to restore and enhance the health of freshwaters for people, businesses, and nature. This will be addressed through developing projects that cut across three interdisciplinary core themes: science, design and technology, and society.

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