Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More than health damaged by agricultural nutrients in drinking water

Environment News Service: The pollution of fresh water by agricultural nutrients costs government agencies, drinking water facilities and individual Americans at least $4.3 billion a year in total, finds new research from Kansas State University. Biology professor Walter Dodds, who led the study, says the researchers calculated that $44 million a year is spent just protecting aquatic species from nutrient pollution.

Dodds and the K-State researchers based their conclusions on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data on nitrogen and phosphorous levels in bodies of water throughout the country. The damaging chemicals - phosphorous and nitrogen - enter the environment from nonpoint sources rather than flowing into a lake or stream from one pipe.

…The researchers calculated the money lost from that pollution by looking at factors like decreasing lakefront property values, the cost of treating drinking water and the revenue lost when fewer people take part in recreational activities like fishing or boating. "We are providing underestimates," Dodds said. "Although our accounting of the degree of nutrient pollution in the nation is fairly accurate, the true costs of pollution are probably much greater than $4.3 billion."

…Contributors to nitrogen and phosphorus pollution include:

  • Overusing fertilizer - both residential and agricultural usage
  • Rainfall flowing over cropland, Animal Feeding Operations and pastures, picking up animal waste and depositing it in water bodies
  • Rainfall flowing over urban and suburban areas where stormwater management is not required, such as parking lots, lawns, rooftops, roads
  • Discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater treatment plants
  • Overflow from septic systems
Constable, "The Cornfield," 1826

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