Nitrate Contamination of Ground Water
The Earth's surface is covered by massive amounts of water, but only a small measure of it is safe for consumption. With a very limited supply, we need to focus our energies on preserving its quality and quantity. Nitrates pose a great threat to our precious groundwater. There are many ways that groundwater can be contaminated, but most aren't nearly as detrimental as an increase in the amount of nitrates within our groundwater.
How do nitrates get into the water? We can help you with this answer. Nitrates get into the groundwater from a variety of sources: some involve pastoral farming, market gardening, application of nitrogenous fertilizers, and industrial and sewage waste disposal.
Negligent agricultural practices are easily recognized as the leading cause for nitrate contamination of water. Farmers apply different rates of fertilizers into the soils where they want to grow higher yielding crops. When the producer applies too high of a rate of nitrogen or other fertilizer, it exceeds the soil's need for it, and the soil allows some of the nitrogen to permeate its structure. When this happens repeatedly, a buildup can occur in the underground water source. Agricultural practices contribute greatly toward the percentage of nitrates found in our rural groundwater.
Although farmers are the biggest supplier of nitrates into groundwater, everyone is responsible for additional contamination in one way or another. Nitrogen compounds given off from automobiles are introduced into the ground when it rains. Leaky septic systems can cause a significant increase in the concentration of nitrates in the groundwater. Those who over-fertilize their lawns or gardens contribute to the effects of nitrate pollution. Domestic animals in residential areas have also led to an increase of nitrates in the water supply. We know that the results of these practices as well as many others accumulate underground rather quickly and damage the quality of the water supply.
Contamination of groundwater is also affected by weather, soil types, and the depth of the aquifer. If it is less than 100 feet to the water table, the vulnerability of contamination is increased. In the Midwest, with a sandy to loamy soil, the groundwater will become more susceptible toward nitrate contamination. In areas where the soil composition is more of a clay compound, no matter if there is an over-use of fertilizer, the vulnerability of the groundwater is greatly reduced. This is the type of situation that occurs in places like southern Indiana where the soils drain very poorly. Through the many factors that are involved, we, as a society, have gained a great amount of knowledge on how to reduce the amount of nitrates in the water source.
A couple of the most widely recognized concerns of high nitrates in water is its cause of methemoglobinemia, more commonly referred to as "blue baby" syndrome, and other blood disorders. If we don't...