When we think about agricultural water pollution, it’s a condition we usually link with the United States and its agricultural Midwest. After all, as a country, we do produce a lot of the world’s food, and our farmers use a lot of chemical fertilizers and weed killers to do so. Unfortunately, the phenomenon isn’t exclusively ours. All around the world, industrialized nations are learning to deal with the same problems which are contaminating their drinking water supplies, killing off the living things in their lakes and rivers, and seeing a explosion of plant growth, a condition known as eutrophication, which drains the water of oxygen so that there isn’t enough for other types of aquatic creatures.
It’s becoming one of the high costs of country development, an exchange of water for food, so to speak. It’s too bad that humans and other animals can’t exist on just one resource or the other, because the race to expand crop yields to meet the needs of an ever-increasing population is causing the global depletion of our critical fresh water resources. One of the issues being faced is that farm run-off is difficult to pinpoint, because the chemicals and animal antibiotics are so widely used. China, which has experienced what is probably the greatest amount of agricultural growth in recent decades, is already seeing water pollution so bad that it is already taking a toll on human health.
The beauty of many of our freshwater lakes is being destroyed by eutrophication. The results include a large influx of algae, called an algae bloom, which gives the water a dense, green appearance. This water is unsafe for consumption, although just looking at it can turn you off to even trying. Although governments have spent a lot of money and effort trying to remove the contaminants from the water and paying subsidies to farmers who store manure safely and make attempts to block its flow prior to it entering our waterways, the current solutions to the problem are more like putting bandaids on existing wounds.
In some countries, such as France, once pristine beaches are being destroyed by algae blooms in spite of everything the government has done to alleviate the problem. In cases such as this, the need for agriculture is overshadowing the region’s huge tourism industry that can bring in upwards of $4.7 billion. Water pollution from agricultural run-off is a problem that is occurring all over the world, and China and India are only two of the problem’s latest victims. As the situation continues to escalate, no one is sure what can be done to prevent it. Laws have been enacted, but they are seldom enforced due to the need for agricultural products.