Overview

Farming and raising animals is not the same everywhere.  Each tract of land has its own soil type, bedrock, plant cover type and percentage, water flow and slope.  All of these factors play a part in the vulnerability of surface and ground water to contamination by farm run-off.  This runoff could contain manure, fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides or other substances from machinery and operations.  The contaminants in the run-off could kill aquatic plants and insects at the base of the food web, or make them grow too numerous.  Each situation puts the aquatic ecosystem off balance and lowers species diversity by decreasing the survival rate of sensitive organisms.

In areas where the soil is thin and bedrock is permeable or not solid, the manure runoff could be a huge ground water contamination issue, causing short term outbreaks of e. coli illness and long term degenerative effects in human water consumers.   In addition, the nutrient load that runs off of manure-spread fields or feedlots goes directly into rivers and the Great Lakes … causing eutrophic algae blooms that indicate poor environmental quality conditions that would continue to spread throughout the entire Northern US region via the water flow through the St. Lawrence Seaway and to the Atlantic Ocean.  Once in the water system, contaminants are very hard to stop and clean up.

If we want to protect our health and vitality, we must figure out ways to recycle and safely contain waste before it reaches water systems.  Both point and non-point pollutants must be kept out of the natural ecosystems we all depend on, and we must find healthier ways to achieve our common objectives.  To solve this puzzle, we must observe what is being done now to connect current practices with future problems they would cause.  Then, we can find a solution.  Watch Sustainable Farming to examine these issues for yourself.

 

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High School Lessons