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#55 Agricultural Runoff

 Are you aware that agricultural runoff is the leading cause of impaired water quality?  Or that nutrient pollution, caused by agricultural runoff is one of America’s most costly and challenging environmental problems?  Nutrient pollution has impacted streams, rivers, lakes, and coastal waters for several decades, and has impacted the environment and human health.  Let’s learn more about what causes this nutrient pollution.  

The Real Nutrient Problem:

The US has one of the most efficient industrial ag programs in the world.  Farmers all over the country are growing massive amounts of crops for human and animal consumption, therefore, adding fertilizer is imperative.   Most fertilizers are full of nitrogen and phosphorous, which are essential for plant health. Unfortunately, when farmers fertilize their fields, usually in the fall, the wet winter months cause the fertilizer to runoff into rivers, lakes and streams.  Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Significant increases in algae harm water quality, food resources and habitats. Take a look at these facts on agriculture runoff. 

Ag Facts:

  • Agricultural runoff remains the main source of pollution of drinking water reservoirs in the US. 
  • According to the US National Ocean Service, 80% of pollution of the marine environment comes from nonpoint source pollution from agricultural runoff.
  • Stanford University scientists have provided compelling evidence that agricultural pollution carried into the ocean with runoff waters causes sudden explosions of marine algae capable of disrupting ocean ecosystems and causing dead zones. 
  • Lake Erie’s 2014 algae bloom left more than 400,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio without drinking water for three days.
  • In the US alone, billions so far have been spent to encourage farmers to voluntarily adopt practices to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, but neither region has seen significant change.
Dirty Agricultural Runoff Water

How can I make an impact:

Action 1: Global Goodness

  • There are ways we can help ease the impact in our own homes.  If you have a garden, lawn or landscaping, do your part by non-phosphorus fertilizers.
  • Keep grass clippings on the lawn.  This not only helps hold water, it also prevents the fertilizers and chemicals from ending up in the streets or landfills. 

Action 2: Planet Protector

  • All of Action 1
  • Create a barrier of deep rooted plants along your property line.  These plants will absorb natural runoff and prevent it from entering waterway.s  
  • Educate your neighbors and friends about the impact their lawns and gardens have on the waterways.  

Action 3: Earth Angel

  • All of Action 1 & 2
  • Challenge your local farmers to use sustainable practices that can remove up to 90% of their agricultural runoff.  
  • Lobby your local government for more agricultural regulations.  The more use utilize alternative forms of farming, the less we have to add synthetics and other fertilizers to grow crops.  
  • Go to https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/troubleinfarmcountry/fertilizer.php#.WvsS49PwbOQ to see if drinking water in your area has been compromised.  

Facts References: 

http://www.waterecon.com/pdfs/writngs/griffinnonpoint1982.pdf
https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/sources-of-exposure/runoff
https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/troubleinfarmcountry/fertilizer.php#.WvsS49PwbOQ
https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/07/09/199095108/Whats-In-The-Water-Searching-Midwest-Streams-For-Crop-Runoff
https://civileats.com/2018/05/08/farm-runoff-in-us-waters-has-hit-crisis-levels-are-farmers-ready-to-change/

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