How Can Nutrient Pollution Affect Me [New Research]
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Written by: Donavan Jones on December 2, 2018

How Can Nutrient Pollution Affect Me

Nutrient Pollution

Nutrient pollution is the fuel for harmful algal blooms.

Nutrient pollution and the algal blooms can create toxins and compounds that are dangerous to your health. There are many ways that humans and pets can be exposed to these compounds.

Table Of Contents:

What Is Nutrient Pollution

Nutrient Pollution is a form of water pollution. This type of pollution refers to the excessive nutrients in the water. It is a primary cause of eutrophication of surface waters, in which excess nutrients, usually nitrogen or phosphorus, stimulate algal growth. This is one of Florida’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems. When too much nitrogen and phosphorus enter a body of water – usually from a wide range of human activities – the water can become polluted. Nutrient pollution has impacted many streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters for the past several decades. This results in an array of serious environmental and human health issues.

What’s So Bad About Nutrients

Too many nutrients in the water can cause algae to grow much faster than the ecosystem can handle. Some algal blooms are harmful to humans because they produce elevated toxins and bacterial growth that can make humans sick if they come into contact with the nutrient-polluted water. If you eat tainted fish or shellfish or drink contaminated water you can become sick. Nutrient pollution in groundwater can be harmful, even at low levels. Infants are vulnerable to a nitrogen-based compound called nitrates in drinking water.

Where Is Nutrient Pollution Found

pig waste cause nutrient pollution

Nutrient pollution affects the air and water around the country. The impacts of nutrient pollution can be found in all types of bodies of water. Pollutants often enter upstream waters like creeks and streams and often flows into larger bodies of water like lakes, rivers, and bays.

  • Agriculture: Animal manure, excess fertilizer applied to crops and fields
  • Stormwater: When it rains, the water runs across hard surfaces such as rooftops, sidewalks, and roads – and carries pollutants, including nitrogen and phosphorus, into local waterways.
  • Wastewater: Your cities water utility treats large amounts of water. The systems they use do not always operate properly or remove enough nitrogen and phosphorus before discharging into waterways.
  • Communities: Yard Fertilizers and pet waste, and certain soaps and detergents contain nitrogen and phosphorus, and can contribute to nutrient pollution if not properly used or disposed of properly.

What Is Nutrient Pollution Caused By

Nutrient pollution is a form of water pollution. It refers to the contamination of surface water by excessive inputs of nutrients. It is the primary cause of eutrophication of surface waters, in which excess nutrients, usually nitrogen and phosphorus, stimulate algal growth.

What Are The Effects Of Nutrient Pollution

Nutrient pollution has impacted many streams, rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters for the past several decades, resulting in serious environmental and human health issues. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water causes algae to grow much faster than the ecosystem can handle.

What Is The Most Common Source Of Nutrient Pollution

woman fertilizing her lawn with a spreader

The most common source of nutrient pollution is fertilizers. Fertilizers cause excessive growth of algae. Nutrients can run off of the land in urban areas where lawn fertilizers are used. 

Pets and wildlife wastes are also other common sources of nutrients.

When it rains or when you water your lawn and gardens, the nutrients in the fertilizers and in animal waste can run off into nearby bodies of water.

Direct Exposure To The Algal Blooms

Ingesting or swimming in water affected by a harmful algal bloom can cause some serious health issues. These problems include:

  • Rashes
  • Stomach Illness
  • Liver Illness
  • Respiratory Problems
  • Neurological Effects

algae blooms caused by nutrient pollution

Drinking Water That Has Nitrates In It

Nitrates can be found in fertilizers on farms to the fertilizer you use to feed your lawn. These fertilizers can run off into your water supply and can contaminate your drinking water. Infants who drink water that contains a high level of nitrates can become seriously ill or even die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue-tinted skin. 

In 2010 the U.S. Geological Survey found that nitrates were too high in 64 percent of shallow wells in agricultural and urban areas.

Water Treatment Byproducts

Rainwater runoff carries nutrients directly into rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. These bodies of water serve as a source of drinking water to a lot of people. When the city uses disinfectants to treat drinking water, it interacts with the toxic algae. This interaction between the algal and the disinfectants can create harmful chemicals called dioxins. Dioxins have been linked to reproductive and developmental health risks and even cancer.

Nutrient Pollution Solutions

nutrient pollution solutions

The following are some activities we can take to stop nutrient pollution. Each section is broken down into three groups, Residents, Farms, and Cities. Follow the group that fits you so you can help make a difference in the waterways. 

Residents

Woman planting flowers in garden

  • Use no-phosphorus fertilizers on lawns and gardens – Check the bag and locate the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium formula. The middle number, representing phosphorus, should be 0. For an example 20-0-18.
  • Save your grass clippings – After you mowed the grass, avoid blowing the grass clippings into the street. They will wash into storm sewers that drain into lakes and rivers.
  • Keep leaves and other organic matter out of the street – Again streets drain into storm sewers, which in turn drain to rivers and lakes
  • Clean it up – Sweep up and grass clippings or fertilizers spills on driveways, sidewalks, and streets.
  • Plant a strip of deep-rooted plants along shoreland – Instead of planting grass here, plant wildflowers, ornamental grasses, shrubs or trees. These type of plants absorb and filter runoff nutrients.

Farms

Spraying the herbicides on the green field

  • Use buffer strips – Leave a wide strip of deep-rooted plants along ditches, streams, and lakes to absorb and filter out nutrient runoff.
  • Change the plan on marginal land – Plant perennial crops or convert the land to a water retention area.
  • Use smart drainage – Install controlled drainage systems.
  • Manage nutrients – Follow nutrient management plans.
  • Manage manure – Follow manure management plans

Cities

  • Spread the word – Educate residents about keeping grass clippings and other organic matter out of the storm sewers.
  • Pet waste and litter – Enforce laws on littering and pet waste disposal.
  • Leave a wide strip of deep-rooted plants along shoreland – Instead of planting grass here, plant wildflowers, ornamental grasses, shrubs or trees. These type of plants absorb and filter runoff contains nutrients.
  • Construction work best practices – Educate contractors and excavators on the best management practices for sediment control and enforce related laws.
  • Have city staff do it right – Require employees to follow best management practices for mowing, fertilizer application, and other maintenance work.
tampa fl

Conclusion

Nutrient pollution and the algal blooms can create toxins and compounds that are dangerous to your health.

There are many ways that humans and pets can be exposed to these compounds.

We can all take action to reduce nutrient pollution through the choices we make around the house. Everyone can access resources online to find out more about the health of their local waterways and participate in their community’s efforts to make their environment healthier and safer.

If we all do our parts then we can get vastly reduce nutrient pollution and our exposure to it.


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Donavan Jones

About Donavan Jones

Donavan Jones is the marketing manager at Florida Water Analysis. He's an expert in inbound marketing and lead generation. In his spare time, Donavan is developing a video game with his friends and family.

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