Ensuring access to safe, clean water is a fundamental responsibility of public health, as embodied in the UN’s Sustainable Development (SDG) Goal 6 and targets 6.1 and 6.3. Eutrophication, in which excessive nutrients in surface water bodies feed the growth of algae and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), is an emerging and growing threat to water supply security. Eutrophication hinders the physical and chemical processes involved in water treatment, and a growing body of evidence shows that toxins produced within and expressed out of cyanobacteria have significant acute and chronic health effects (1,2).
In response to this threat, the Faculty of Public Health at Khon Kaen University established in 2019 a research group for eutrophication in freshwater lakes. Currently, our research is focused on understanding the role of lake sediment in eutrophic lakes and in developing geochemical treatments to mitigate eutrophication and restore lake water quality.
In partnership with researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden, the laboratory at the Faculty of Public Health has become the first laboratory in Thailand with the ability to perform sequential extraction of phosphorus fractions in lake sediment. This laboratory protocol is critical to understanding the role of lake sediment in eutrophication. Additionally, we have piloted the use of chemical coagulants, such as aluminum sulfate, in a local eutrophic lake as a geochemical strategy to restore water quality.
Ongoing research is exploring emerging geochemical treatments for eutrophic lakes that are promising for use in Thailand, including the re-use of drinking water treatment residual and combined use chemical coagulant, ballast, and sorbent in a strategy known as “floc and lock.”
Our research is firmly rooted in the pursuit of practical, socially acceptable, and financially feasible solutions to his important problem. We embrace establishing partnerships with local governments and working at the mesoscale and field scale levels in order to provide solutions that are scalable for immediate implementation.