Third Report In "Issues In Ecology" Series Details Problems Of Nonpoint Source Pollution
In a well-groomed suburb, a woman sprays fertilizer on her lawn. Across town, a construction worker uses a hose to rinse out the inside of a dump truck. Twenty miles away, a farmer uses manure from his livestock to fertilize his crops. What these three don't realize, is that each, in their own small way, are contributing to something they have probably never even heard of, "nonpoint source pollution."
A new report, "Nonpoint Pollution of Surface Waters with Phosphorus and Nitrogen," presents an in-depth look at the problems caused by urban and rural runoff and the possible solutions. The report is the third in the Ecological Society of America's Issues in Ecology series.
Water pollution can be divided into two categories, point and nonpoint. Point sources, such as sewage pipes, are much easier to identify and control than nonpoint sources. In contrast, nonpoint sources can be intermittent and spread over a large area, making them very difficult to manage.
The biggest contributors to nonpoint source pollution are large livestock and farming operations, which can have fertilizer and manure runoff; land development, which can contribute through construction site runoff and development in areas that lack sewers; and fossil fuel burning. While each of these can contain a wide variety of pollutants, the ESA report focuses on the effects of phosphorus and nitrogen. While both of these are important nutrients for plant and animal life, too much of either can drastically alter an ecosystem.
According to the report, the most serious problem associated with nonpoint
pollution is eutrophication. This occurs when the excess nutrients in the
runoff, specifically phosphorus and nitrogen, cause a burst of algal and
bacterial growth that leads to a loss of much of the dissolved oxygen, which, in
effect, suffocates other aquatic life. This
Contact: Gabriel Paal
Ecological Society of America