Eutrophication — the over-enrichment of freshwater and coastal ecosystems with nutrients from agriculture, wastewater and urban areas — is a rapidly growing environmental crisis and one of the biggest threats to water quality. WRI has estimated that there are hundreds of coastal areas suffering from excess nutrients and hypoxia, or “dead zones.”

The rapid increase in intensive agricultural practices, industrial activities and population growth are all contributing to the rise in eutrophic and hypoxic events, in addition to increasing nitrogen and phosphorus flows in the environment

Research from WRI indicates that a lack of awareness and the complexity of designing effective solutions are the primary challenges to addressing eutrophication. Failing to address these hurdles will continue to put water quality at risk, affecting the lives of millions worldwide.

With these challenges in mind, WRI works to improve water quality in three ways:

1. Collecting, modeling, and sharing data.

WRI’s Aqueduct tools provide the best available globally comparable data on eutrophication. WRI also develops toolboxes, publications and other resources to educate decision-makers on eutrophication and sustainable nutrient management.

2. Developing methodologies and tools.

WRI develops methodologies and tools for estimating the impacts of land-based activities on water quality. From assessing the supply chain impacts of global corporations to evaluating nutrient loadings from individual farm fields, we quantify the water quality impacts of various activities and identify opportunities for improvements.

3. Offering innovative solutions

WRI specializes in creating, evaluating and advising on flexible, voluntary and market-based approaches for both the public and private sector. For example, WRI advances and operationalizes water quality trading by advising on program design, conducting feasibility studies and evaluating the effectiveness of these programs. This multi-layered approach allows us to address eutrophication and hypoxia, and improve water quality around the world and across sectors.