Europe’s Water Tower–Switzerland

July 9 & 10, 2014
Emily Blanton and Amanda Burcham

Professor Moomaw, along with Harriett Jameson a landscape and urban planning graduate of UVA, kicked off our third and final module surrounding global water issues with a field trip to a local lake in a suburb of the city of Lugano. The lake is called Lake Muzzano and is threatened by increasing residential development surrounding the lake. Dr. Brack Hale from Franklin University in Lugano was our gracious tour guide. After taking the regional train from Riva San Vitale to the main Lugano train station, the group boarded a local train just a few steps away from our previous stop. I was again impressed by the connectivity of regional transport and the availability of public transport to the even smallest areas of the Swiss country side. Dr. Hale mentioned that if one continued to ride this smaller tram for 20 more minutes, it would whisk you across the border into Italy.
Once we arrived at the lake, Dr. Hale gave us the general layout of the environmental processes and human impacts involved in this particular lake. He explained that increasing development for residential areas and agriculture has led to more intense human impacts. The main issues discussed were higher levels of nutrient runoff from sewage and fertilizers from the surrounding farms and homes. Citizens are more the most part unaware of the damaging effects of their actions such as dead zones created by anthropogenic eutrophication and unchecked invasive species. A non-governmental environmental non-profit Pro Natura was able to purchase the land to better regulate the human impacts on the lake. The organization has day lighted some streams, switched surrounding farmers from synthetic to organic fertilizers, and encouraged the removal of invasive species. We were able to spot a few informational plaques about the current issues while walking around the lake but most were hiding behind tree branches and seemed overgrown and ignored by citizens. While on our way to another viewing point, we saw a citizen breaking the law by letting her dog off the leash while walking down the path.
Overall, the experience at Lake Muzzano was an incredibly educational one that enveloped a lot of the issues that we’ve discussed so far such as cross governmental cooperation, anthropogenic environmental impacts, and the possibilities for future sustainable infrastructure improvements.
After the field trip we arrived back to the Villa just in time for a wonderful lunch prepared by Chef Luigi! Following lunch we watched a short film, Poisoned Waters, which is based on areas in the eastern shore; Chesapeake Bay, Potomac River and the Delmarva Region. The film gave insight to largest estuary in the United States, and how it has become polluted consequently by the same issues in which are causing pollution in the lake we had just visited that day; Lake Muzzano, Switzerland. We ended lecture with a short one-page paper on what we thought to be the largest contributor in water pollution. It was very interesting to see that after viewing the same lake and movie everyone still had very different thoughts to what was the MOST important issue facing water quality today.
Friday morning class began with a little more energy than normal for everyone was excited to begin their weekend travels to Florence, Lake Como, Venice, and Lugano. Lecture began with a continuation to the “Too Much, Too little, Too Bad” lecture. We discussed how you must connect the issues we talked about on Thursday in order to solve our current fresh water crisis. We went over principles of fresh water management and what the threats are to our fresh water supply. Wrapping up lecture Dr. Moomaw and Ms. Jameson left the group with two questions to think about while we traveled to places adjacent to water:

1. What is the significance of these water bodies today?
2. As you are exploring, where do you see opportunities for intervention?

With water fresh in our minds, we all went separate directions and anxiously awaited our train to arrive. Five hours and two trains later my group finally made it to Florence!

Photo Credit: Amanda Burcham

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