Absorbed and Transferred: Run-Off in the Midwest

By: Greg Stevens

One of the biggest concerns in the Midwest today, is also one of the least known by people outside of the community. Similar to fracking, water runoff is affecting many people’s drinking water and water supply.

Water runoff is a direct result from water that pools up on hard surfaces or poor irrigation system. When farmers water their crops too much or with an improper water irrigation system, the excess water runs off from the farm, into the community and then ultimately ends up in local rivers, streams or soil. This is a major concern because farms are fertilized with chemical fertilizers and manure that is loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus. The Environmental Working Group released a report stating “These two potent pollutants set off a cascade of harmful consequences, threatening the drinking water used by millions of Americans.”


Courtesy of Flickr user eutrophication&hypoxia

Courtesy of Flickr user eutrophication&hypoxia

With runoff getting into the drinking water, it becomes unsafe to drink. When nitrate levels in drinking water become above 10 parts per million, the levels are high enough to kill a child.

According to the EWG “Every year, farm operators apply more than 12 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer and 8 million tons of phosphorus fertilizer to agricultural land in the U.S. Unless carefully managed, nitrates and phosphates are carried off their fields by runoff water or percolates into drainage systems, eventually ending up in streams, rivers, lakes and underground aquifers.”

Water runoff is a serious concern in the Midwest and must be monitored or people could drink unsafe water without knowing it.

 All though the effects of runoff can last for a quite some time, the solution is simple. Farmers need to take responsibility for their farms and make sure they are properly cared for and have a proper irrigation system. When the irrigation system is cared for and doesn’t provide run-off, then the chemicals on the land cannot reach the drinking water of millions of Americans.

Information courtesy of:

Environmental Working Group

Waterkeeper Alliance,1391/pid/200


Contact with questions and feedback.

Cabrini College

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