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Don’t Waste Water: Part II

Water conservation takes many forms. There’s the water you apply around your lawn and landscape. Then there’s the water supply at large, the groundwater, lakes, rivers, oceans etc. that can be impacted by the lawn and garden products that we use. To better understand how many common products can harm water, check out this article from The Environmental Magazine:

By Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

EarthTalk is a Q&A column from E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What effects do fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides
used on residential lawns or on farms have on nearby water bodies like
rivers, streams, or even the ocean for those of us who live near the
shore? — Linda Reddington, Manahawkin, NJ

With the advent of the so-called Green Revolution in the second half
of the 20th century — when farmers began to use technological
advances to boost yields — synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and
herbicides became commonplace around the world not only on farms, but
in backyard gardens and on front lawns as well.

These chemicals, many of which were developed in the lab and are
petroleum-based, have allowed farmers and gardeners of every stripe to
exercise greater control over the plants they want to grow by
enriching the immediate environment and warding off pests. But such
benefits haven’t come without environmental costs — namely the
wholesale pollution of most of our streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and
even coastal areas, as these synthetic chemicals run-off into nearby

When the excess nutrients from all the fertilizer we use runs off into
our waterways, they cause algae blooms, sometimes big enough to make
waterways impassable. When the algae die, they sink to the bottom and
decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and
other aquatic species can’t survive in these so-called “dead zones,”
and so they die or move on to greener underwater pastures.

A related issue is the poisoning of aquatic life. According to the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Americans alone churn through
75 million pounds of pesticides each year to keep the bugs off their
peapods and petunias. When those chemicals get into waterways, fish
ingest them and become diseased. Humans who eat diseased fish can
themselves become ill, completing the circle wrought by pollution.

A 2007 study of pollution in rivers around Portland, Oregon found that
wild salmon there are swimming around with dozens of synthetic
chemicals in their systems. Another recent study from Indiana found
that a variety of corn genetically engineered to produce the
insecticide Bt is having toxic effects on non-target aquatic insects,
including caddis flies, a major food source for fish and frogs.

The solution, of course, is to go organic, both at home and on the
farm. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic farmers and
gardeners use composted manure and other natural materials, as well as
crop rotation, to help improve soil fertility, rather than synthetic
fertilizers that can result in an overabundance of nutrients. As a
result, these practices protect groundwater supplies and avoid runoff
of chemicals that can cause dead zones and poisoned aquatic life.

There is now a large variety of organic fertilizer available
commercially, as well as many ways to keep pests at bay without
resorting to harsh synthetic chemicals. A wealth of information on
growing greener can be found online: Check out and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
Alternative Farming System Information Center, for starters. Those
interested in face-to-face advice should consult with a master
gardener at a local nursery that specializes in organic gardening.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Attili Sattibabu

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