The byproducts of conventional farming threaten watersheds and pollute drinking water.

When it rains, soil and farm inputs—particularly nitrogen-rich fertilizers and toxic pesticides and herbicides— “run off” fields into nearby creeks and streams.

Quickly Growing Algae

The nitrogen and phosphorus found in agricultural fertilizers cause algae to grow faster than aquatic ecosystems can handle, decreasing the oxygen that fish and marine life need to survive and causing “dead zones.”

The same chemicals that harm aquatic life end up in drinking water supplies. Atrazine, for example, a commonly used herbicide in conventional farming that causes exposed frogs to become hermaphroditic, is known to leach into ground water.

Due in large part to runoff from industrial Midwestern farms, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico now spans more than 8,700 square miles.

Solutions

Riparian buffers

Purposefully cultivating plants or trees alongside streams can prevent some pollutants—about 25%—from reaching the watershed.

No synthetic inputs

If we don’t put toxic chemicals on crops, we don’t have to worry about them ending up in waterways.

Create healthy soil

Conventional soils are highly susceptible to erosion. Organic soils, by contrast, hold together and hold water better due to their higher concentration of organic matter. Farming practices like cover cropping also help prevent soils from washing away.

WATERSHED IMPACT TRIAL

To explore and educate the public on connections between agricultural practices and clean water, Rodale Institute began the Watershed Impact Trial in 2018.

Learn More