Effects Of Nitrate On Water Quality

1006 words - 5 pages

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to spare. This is the reality – especially when regarding the amount of freshwater available. Fact: The earth contains only 3.5% freshwater. Fact: 98.8% of all freshwater is shielded from our grasp in glaciers or groundwater. Fact: Only 0.0003% of the Earth’s water is accessible for consumption. With such a minute quantity of freshwater available, the high amount of pollution contaminating this water is appalling. Water quality levels are decreasing, hurting us as well as the countless organisms depending on freshwater habitats to be safe homes. One of the main contaminants, nitrates, which spring from mainly manmade sources, are especially ...view middle of the document...

In fact, the nitrate concentration in septic tank wastewater is 30 mg/L – 30 times greater than the natural concentration. The ideal solution is to eliminate the source of contamination, which may not always be practical. Hence, we need to look for ways to intercept and divert the contaminants from reaching fresh water sources.

One option that is practical and easy to implement are constructed wetlands. Constructed wetlands (CW) are like natural wetlands, but manmade. Wetlands, rightfully named, love the water and thrive in water-saturated environments. Because of this trait natural wetlands have long helped with slowing runoff and other water-management techniques including: consuming nutrients, denitrification (converting nitrates into nitrogen gas to release back into the atmosphere), and breaking down pesticides.

Can we adopt the same techniques to solve manmade nitrate contamination issues? The answer lies in CW. These habitats are perfect for dealing with excess nutrients from agricultural or septic wastewater runoff like nitrates. By slowing runoff, sediments and nutrients suspended on the waterfall out of place, thereby, never reaching the rivers or lakes. The bountiful biological life of wetlands consume or utilize excess nutrients. For the remaining nitrates, denitrification, the removal of nitrates by converting them into nitrogen gas, occurs as well. Finally, wetlands break down pesticides and fertilizers that enter the wastewater stream before they reach other freshwater habitats. Other processes for managing high concentrations of nitrates exist. However, CW offer a more natural alternative than other nitrate-desalination procedures such as reverse osmosis, ion exchange, or electrodialysis. They can provide a new home for countless species and, furthermore, CW are cheaper and provide just as beneficial results as the other procedures mentioned.

Numerous studies have shown the nitrate-removal potential of wetlands. A study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service using wetlands, for example, showed that 60% of nitrates were removed from the incoming wastewater runoff. In another...

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