Nutrient pollution, also referred to as eutrophication, is a widespread environmental and economic issue. Excess nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen exist naturally in aquatic systems, but are detrimental if concentrations become elevated for several reasons. Examples of non-point sources include storm water runoff, yard waste, pet waste, and agricultural runoff. Common point sources include industrial and municipal wastewater discharges, and septic systems.
Why Too Much is a Bad Thing:
- Eutrophication in aquatic systems causes algae and cyanobacteria to grow rapidly and form blooms. The decomposition of dead algal and cyanobacterial cells by bacteria depletes the supply of dissolved oxygen in the water, potentially suffocating fish and other aquatic organisms.
- Excessive blooms on the surface of a lake or river can block sunlight from penetrating the water, choking out beneficial submerged aquatic vegetation.
- Many algal and cyanobacterial blooms can produce toxins that can cause health issues in humans and animals, including stomach aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and more.
Municipalities can develop storm water management plans and ensure that municipal wastewater discharge are in compliance with regulations to mitigate these issues. For more information, visit these EPA and Wisconsin DNR articles. Also, be sure to look for the next issue-Part 2: Economic Impacts.
About the Author
Maureen A. Schneider