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Eve Kelley

Mr. Pasterino

November 5, 2017

Environmental Science

The basic idea of the tragedy of the commons is that when resources are presented to

humans as communal, they will be exploited and taken advantage of. Alternatively, when

resources are presented to individuals as their own they will be well preserved and taken care of.

The reasoning behind this is that people are able to distance themselves from the reality of the

effects the actions they are taking will have on the resources they need if they are not directly

hurting themselves. However, when they can see that they are having a negative impact on their

own personal resources, they will often stop in their own self interest.

This theory connects seamlessly with the environmental issues that we as a human race

are facing currently. Over time, we have been diminishing and damaging the resources we

require to survive. This is applicable both on an extremely large scale (worldwide) and a much

smaller one (lakes and ponds in little Rhode Island), specifically the 237 freshwater lakes and

ponds being tracked by the DEM. Thanks to volunteer workers and other data sources, 78% of

them have been evaluated to determine the condition they are in. Collecting data and being

informed are the first steps to impacting a positive change in local pond and lake health.

The biggest threats to these bodies of water are invasive species and pollution. Most of

the invasive species are plants which can impair the ways the pond can be used beneficially and

are dangerous to its health. The invasive species that are already in ponds and lakes in Rhode

Island are fairly well established, meaning that they would require long term plans to remove

them from the area. According to the RIDEM website, “Water pollution problems in freshwater
lakes and ponds include excessive nutrients, which can accelerate the eutrophication process,

mercury in fish and to a lesser extent metals and pathogens.” Eutrophication happens when there

are excessive amounts of nutrients in a body of water, often caused by runoff which promotes

dense plant life. The plant life then monopolizes the oxygen and animal life, such as fish, suffer.

Both of these threats to ponds and lakes also have an effect on human life. The most

major threat is to fishermen, who have nothing to fish when all the fish are either dead or

contaminated. These contaminated waters can be harmful not only to fish but to any children

who might accidentally swallow water when swimming. Contaminated water shouldn’t be swam

in at all and if the contamination is severe enough, can be unhealthy for the skin. However, if

people are not informed and the contamination isn’t obvious, it can go unnoticed until it is too

late. According to a report in 2016 the Monposset Ponds held the record for longest consecutive

beach closings in the state. The beaches had to close for swimming, boating and fishing because

of Cyanobacteria outbreaks.

There are actions that can be taken to counteract the contamination. A common

contaminator is algae, which can be treated with aluminum sulfate, which binds with

phosphorus. Phosphorus is one of the nutrients that helps algae thrive, meaning that removing it

from the water is beneficial because algae will have less of what it needs to survive.

Water pollution is an important cause to pay attention to because of the extreme effects it

can have on our lives if the progression continues. It may be primarily in ponds and lakes now,

but if nothing is done about it when it’s a relatively small scale issue it will become a large scale

one very fast. Water is something we all need to survive and must attend to and respect. Take

care of our ponds and lakes, we need them.

Works Cited

“Freshwater Lake and Pond Water Quality.” DEMRI, Accessed November 7,


“Popular Pond Dosed with Aluminum Sulfate.” Frank Carini, EcoRI News, June 18,


aluminum-sulfate-to-control-algae Accessed November 7, 2017