Everything has to go someplace

I see where Des Moines, Iowa is experiencing its normal springtime bout with nitrates in the Raccoon River from whence it obtains its water.  This is a decades old problem beginning after WW II when highly concentrated nitrogen fertilizer first became available.  The immediate problem is caused by drainage of nitrate laden ground water from over-fertilized farm fields into the field tiles, ditches and tributaries that feed the river. 

The city is required to lower the nitrate level in drinking water to 10 milligrams per liter.  This is an expensive process and will cost an estimated $1 million or more for the year 2015.

It probably costs the farmers even more as nitrogen fertilizers are expensive to buy and apply only to have them leach away and become unavailable for plant growth.  Their appearance in the water supply exemplifies one of Barry Commoner’s Four Laws of Nature - “Everything has to go someplace”.

The water works board has filed a lawsuit against drainage ditches in three northern Iowa counties demanding mandatory nitrate reductions rather than voluntary actions.   Farm leaders argue that more time is needed.  

My view (and I know it’s utopian) is that implementing a system of alternative or organic agriculture would go a long way to resolving this problem as well as providing a myriad of other benefits to farmers, consumers and cities alike. 

rjhdvm@gmail.com