Water/Wastewater

  • Dude! How Does Water Pollution Affect Surfers?

Dude! How Does Water Pollution Affect Surfers?

May 18 2015 Read 1954 Times

In the UK, we are lucky enough to have comprehensive wastewater management systems. These mean that the water going into our seas, rivers and reservoirs is clean and safe. Even in the event of leakages, spillages, floods or other occurrences which could contaminate water supplies, we have clear procedures and guidelines in place to return the body of water to a state of cleanliness as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, not everywhere in the world enjoys these same advantages. Take Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, for example, which is one of the most populous cities in the world – but only treats 34% of its sewage… and which dumps this sewage, treated or not, directly in the waters surrounding the city.

This is the problem facing competitors in the current Oi Rio Pro surf competition, which kicked off in the Brazilian city last week. With unpleasant levels of sewage clearly present in the waters adjacent to the competition venue, there have been concerns from participants and environmentalists about the safety of the event.

Problems on the Horizon

The city of Rio is home to more than 12 million people. Obviously, this produces a vast amount of waste, which is not helped by the city’s poor infrastructure, sanitation and housing facilities. Much of that human waste ends up as raw sewage in a lagoon, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean and which is just a stone’s throw from the competition site.

Should adverse wind conditions prevail, there is a strong possibility that the sewage could be pushed down the beach at low tide. This would mean that the competitors would effectively be surfing in the sewage – not a pleasant thought.

Indeed, the backup venue for the tournament was called off at the last minute – due to pollution concerns, as well. Nevertheless, spokesman for the World Surf League Dave Prodan insisted that he was “confident that our primary site at Postinho, Barra da Tijuca will deliver excellent conditions.” Surfers will be hoping the wind is blowing their way, in perhaps more ways than one.

Wider Concerns

The sewage present in the sea will not only affect the current surf tournament, but also the upcoming Olympic Games in 2016. The article Heavy Pollution Affecting Brazil's Olympic Waters discusses in more depth the specific challenges that the future hosts are facing… and how, despite promises, they are almost certain to fail them.  

Image Source: Bryce Bradford

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