Agricultural Pollution Drives Up Water Costs

Friday, October 31, 2014

Clean, cheap water from your tap might soon be a thing of the past.

Just last week (Oct 25), the Des Moines Water Works blamed farming operations for significant rate hikes for subscribers who pay for clean water.

The reason?

Runoff from agricultural fields covered with fertilizers and manure is getting into waterways.

If you’ve paid attention to the news this summer, you know that polluted water -- courtesy of farming operations -- isn’t a new phenomenon.

In large part as a result of agricultural runoff, the Gulf of MexicoChesapeake Bay and most recently Lake Erie have all been victims of toxic algae blooms and “dead zones” void of oxygen and marine life.

Beyond harming the environment and even human health, polluted water is expensive to clean.

According to the Des Moines Water Works, ratepayers in its system forked over nearly $1 million extra to clean polluted water.

Des Moines water problem echoes a 2012 EWG report that said removing agricultural pollution from public drinking water supplies can cost utilities millions of dollars in construction and maintenance, an expense that eventually also falls to taxpayers.

So how can we save money and clean our water? By requiring simple, basic conservation measures.

Voluntary conservation programs have dominated the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approach to water quality for almost a century.  But when farmers are allowed to decide themselves whether to use them, water quality is left to chance.

It’s time to remove chance from the equation.

CC Photo courtesy of: Flickr, user Penn State

 

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