Addressing ecological realities impacting human health at Lake Victoria
Nutrient loading from wastewater effluent and agricultural runoff can cause eutrophication and proliferation of toxin-producing cyanobacteria. Like many lakes, Africa’s Lake Victoria provides food, drinking water, and a source of livelihood for surrounding communities in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. These ecosystem services, however, are impacted negatively by increased resource demands, eutrophication, and climate change.
This project, funded by a Global Health Institute 2016 Seed Grant, investigates the impact of nutrient pollution and invasive species with the aim to identify local solutions to mitigate water quality challenges. Kisumu Bay, which receives runoff from the third largest municipality in Kenya, is the focus of the study which combines approaches from social science (e.g., community surveys) and ecology (e.g., manipulative experiments). Survey results point to distinct differences among communities’ use of lake water for drinking, cooking, and economic benefit. For instance, 38% of households are able to access alternative water sources, although these sources may still have health risks (e.g., fish ponds). Ecological experiments suggest laboratory results of improved water quality with macrophyte growth may not always scale to the lake, hence, different strategies to minimize health risks associated with communities living near and using lake water may be needed.
Jessica Corman is a limnologist and ecologist working at the UW-Madison Center for Limnology. She studies nutrient cycling in lakes and streams, linking biogeochemical processes with water quality. She earned her doctoral degree from Arizona State University and will be starting a new position as an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December 2017.