World / US and Canada

US-China research institutes tackle water pollution

By AMY HE in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2014-09-25 13:52

Two Nevada-based environmental research institutions will partner with a Nanjing university on water pollution research, which they hope eventually will help solve water pollution problems in China.

The Desert Research Institute and the Nevada Center of Excellence have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hohai University to share hydrology and water resource research and exchange academic personnel, the institutions said on Tuesday.

"We believe that this collaboration will allow us to build a team of world class researchers from both institutes to solve urgent water pollution and management - not only in China but all over the world," said Xu Hui, president of Hohai University, in a statement.

The memorandum, signed in August, includes the joint organization of workshops, symposia, international conferences and publications. Students from the Desert Research Institute (DRI), a non-profit research campus under the Nevada System of Higher Education, will visit Hohai University and vice versa, according to DRI research professor Kumud Acharya, who will be the two schools' new joint lab's co-director.

"This has been in the works for a very long time, it just happens to be a time where we finally put everything together," Acharya said. "This is work that we've been doing for a very long time and we had a delegation that was visiting Hohai University, and we were able to reach an agreement to establish this joint lab, and everybody feels that this is really urgent."

Acharya told China Daily that one focus of the partnership will be on researching methods to manage algae bloom in heavily-polluted waters of Lake Taihu, China's largest freshwater lake in the Yangtze River Delta. Algae bloom is the accumulation of toxic algae that poses as a threat to an aquatic system, forming as the result of runoff from fertilizers used in agriculture and household cleaning chemicals.

Since 2007, Lake Taihu has experienced massive algae blooms that have left millions without clean drinking water, overwhelming Wuxi city's water system and threatening the wellbeing of the city's residents. The partnership between DRI and Hohai will include research that expands on the work the institutions have done on algae bloom in Lake Taihu to include testing and implementation for other bodies of water around China and beyond, Acharya said.

"We plan to reach out to other colleges in China and the US. Because Taihu, that's only one lake, and there hundreds of lakes in the east and southern parts of China that have similar issues. Taihu attracted a lot of attention because it's very large and 40 million people live in the watershed," he said.

DRI and Hohai University's collaboration comes as an increasing number of American and Chinese research institutions are partnering to study the environment to tackle China's increasing pollution problems, and Acharya said that he sees more such partnerships in the future.

"Obviously you know that China has been ramping up its economic development in the last few years, but everybody in China knows that environmental concerns are real. People would like to see cleaner lakes, cleaner rivers," he said. "We've realized that in the US for a long time, but now the Chinese government realizes that it's really urgent, and they are willing to spend money to solve this problem. They're willing to engage in this conversation of cleaning up the environment. I'm pretty hopeful that things will be much, much better down the road."


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