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Research Aims At Nation's First 'Smart' Ground Water Regulations

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A unique strategy on how to handle ground water pollution -- one that uses "smart laws" to benefit both the environment and agriculture -- may be in store for Indiana, and it may serve as a model for the nation.

Purdue University agricultural engineer Bernie Engel says just like smart credit cards, smart kitchen appliances and other modern microprocessing miracles, environmental smart laws would use computers to examine the variables and prescribe solutions -- in this case, chemical regulations for specific areas.

Engel, at the request of the Office of the Indiana State Chemist, is working to create the nation's first smart environmental regulations for ground water contamination by agricultural runoff as part of the state's pesticide management plan required by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Office of the Indiana State Chemist, based at Purdue, is responsible for enforcing agrichemical regulations in Indiana.

"Other states apply blanket regulations, but Indiana is looking to do something somewhat different," Engel says. "Instead of just using one number, and saying that that is the proper amount of pesticide to use throughout the state, we're working to create an on-line computer data base and program that would tell pesticide users how much of the chemical they could use on a particular piece of land."

Currently, for example, every patch of soil is treated the same when it comes to regulations stating how much agrichemical can be used. Sandy or clay, wet or dry, hilly or flat, ground water that's shallow or deep, it doesn't matter one whit as far as the law is concerned.

For the amount of agrichemicals that seep into water, however, these varying conditions matter a great deal. So much, in fact, that Engel found that 75 percent of the detectable pesticides that seep into ground water come from just 25 percent of farmland.

Treating all fields the same doesn't make sense for farmers or for the
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Contact: Steve Tally
tally@ecn.purdue.edu
765-494-9809
Purdue University
22-Jan-1998


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