Protecting water from non-point-source pollution
December 19, 2011

Prices for corn and soybeans are at very high levels -- and the Federal budget is short on cash. That combination is putting a lot of pressure on the Conservation Reserve Program. The CRP takes agricultural land out of production and sets it aside -- mainly in an effort to protect streams and waterways from pollution by the runoff from fertilizer applied to farm fields. The buffer that CRP acreage creates between fertilized land and the water helps filter out the nutrients in the fertilizer before it makes its way into the natural supplies of drinking water that people rely upon every day. Source water protection is a major issue for the municipal water sector, since it's extremely expensive to remove nutrients from the water -- and much cheaper to keep them out in the first place. But the very definition of non-point-source pollution is that it's not possible to identify a single source -- so it's hard to assign responsibility for the expense of the prevention measures.

We have participated in some of the educational and research efforts of the nitrates committee of the Nebraska Section AWWA. These include two recent articles in the section's journal: One is an overview of the nitrate issue, and the other is a review of treatment options. The next issue will feature an article on source-level mitigation.

December 2011
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last revised December 2011