By John Crabtree
Water is a necessity for all living things. We have a responsibility to act as good stewards of our water, now and for future generations.
Nitrates in drinking water can be hazardous to the health of pregnant women, nursing mothers, infant children, and the elderly. Excess nitrogen can enter the water supply anytime rainfall, snow melt, or excess irrigation flows over land and the water picks up pollutants, often from the overuse of chemical fertilizers on lawns and cropland as well as poorly managed animal waste from livestock facilities.
In March of this year the Des Moines (Iowa) Water Works filed a lawsuit against Buena Vista, Sac, and Calhoun counties in Northwest Iowa claiming drainage districts in those counties are polluting the Raccoon River, an important source of drinking water for 500,000 residents in the City of Des Moines. In order to meet safe drinking water standards, Des Moines may be forced to spend between $76 million and $183.5 million to construct a new water treatment facility.
The cause of that pollution? Nitrate contamination, much of it coming from agricultural activities including the 960,000 cattle, 1.2 million hogs, and just over 1 million turkeys raised there.
When water is polluted, our neighbors downstream must suffer the burden building costly treatment infrastructure that is too expensive for many communities, smaller towns in particular. Water connects us all. And because we all benefit from it, we must each play a role in its protection.
John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs can be reached at [email protected] Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.