Does fertilizers cause water pollution?
If you use too much fertilizer or apply it at the wrong time, it can easily wash off your lawn or garden into storm drains and then flow untreated into lakes or streams. Just as in your garden, fertilizer in lakes and streams fuels plant growth. Fertilizers contain "nutrients" such as nitrates and phosphates.
Too much of it is harmful to our water. Fertilizers used in agriculture are a significant source of nutrient pollution to water. In fact, nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from agricultural fields are some of the largest sources of pollution to coastal “dead zones” across the United States.
Organic and conventional fertilizers are safe for lawns and the environment as long as they are used properly. The process of how plants absorb nutrients is the same whether they come from an organic or inorganic fertilizer, so, from the grasses' perspective, it doesn't really matter which type of fertilizer you use.
Similar to phosphorus, nitrogen is a limiting nutrient for plants and when applied as fertilizer helps increase crop yields. Unfortunately when too much nitrogen is added, the excess enters waterways, causing hypoxic conditions such as the Gulf of Mexico's massive dead zone and threatening drinking water quality.
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.
There is an extensive body of research documenting that nitrate from nitrogen fertilizer can leach below the root zone and migrate to groundwater.
Commercial fertilizers are known to be the main culprits behind eutrophication whereas organic fertilizers are known to provide the same benefits to the plants with less environmental toxicity.
Nutrient pollution can occur due to land development, agriculture, aquaculture, and atmospheric nutrient deposition. These increase the amount, alter the proportions and chemical forms of nutrients promoting HABs. The growing human population intensifies food production and wastewater discharge.
The main water pollutants include bacteria, viruses, parasites, fertilisers, pesticides, pharmaceutical products, nitrates, phosphates, plastics, faecal waste and even radioactive substances. These substances do not always change the colour of the water, meaning that they are often invisible pollutants.
The biggest disadvantage of using an organic fertilizer is that it may not contain primary nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium, also known as NPK. Manure-based fertilizers contain these nutrients and are still considered organic.
Why organic farming is not sustainable?
Because they can't use synthetic fertilizers, organic farms must use far more space to grow the same amount of produce. With a need for more acres adapted to crops, deforestation is nearly inevitable.
Nitrogen and phosphorus support the growth of algae and aquatic plants, which provide food and habitat for fish, shellfish and smaller organisms that live in water. But when too much nitrogen and phosphorus enter the environment - usually from a wide range of human activities - the air and water can become polluted.
Data from our experiment illustrates that after the addition of fertilizer, the TDS and nitrate levels increased past the acceptable level in drinking water, while the pH levels decreased drastically, as the water turned acidic.
Use vegetative buffer strips around surface water
Buffer strips of native grasses, plants, or turf reduce nitrogen and phosphorous in runoff water. Buffer areas receiving infrequent irrigation and fertilization provide a filter for nutrients from surface runoff water.
Creating healthy soils, which is the foundation of organic systems, conserves water, nurtures fertility, leads to less surface runoff, and reduces the need for nutrient input. With less toxic pesticide use, organic farming helps to protect the quality of the nation's waterways.
Leachate is the liquid waste that is produced as organic waste decomposes. If leachate enters a stream, it can be extremely polluting. Naturally occurring bacteria in the stream will break down the waste quickly using oxygen in the water. As the oxygen levels fall, aquatic life in the stream will die.
Organic farming is a type of agricultural farming that produces food without the use of any chemical fertilizers. Organic farming also maintains biodiversity and reduces the environmental pollution of water, air, and soil.
While not immediately as dangerous as pesticides, lawn fertilizers are high in nitrates, which can be dangerous if leached into your well water. Before applying lawn fertilizer, consider your well's location, depth, and get your water tested regularly.
Compost may contain nutrients, organic acids, pesticides, and metals which could leach through soils to the ground water posing \ a potential contamination problem.
A major problem with the use of fertilisers occurs when they are washed off the land by rainwater into rivers and lakes. This leaching causes an increase in the levels of minerals such as nitrate and phosphate in the water, a process called eutrophication . Eutrophication encourages the growth of algae.
Is organic fertilizer better for the environment?
Organic farming is widely considered to be a far more sustainable alternative when it comes to food production. The lack of pesticides and wider variety of plants enhances biodiversity and results in better soil quality and reduced pollution from fertilizer or pesticide run-off.
Critics say organic farming is less efficient than conventional farming, and so uses more land, leading to greater deforestation, which causes higher carbon dioxide emissions and biodiversity loss.
An overabundance of nutrients—primarily nitrogen and phosphorus—in water starts a process called eutrophication.
Our analysis shows the role that the production and use of synthetic N fertilisers play in this scenario of increasing global emissions, contributing 6.8% of agri-food systems emissions annually (1.13 GtCO2e year−1 in 16.5 GtCO2e year−1).
Insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are used to kill agricultural pests. These chemicals can enter and contaminate water through direct application, runoff, and atmospheric deposition. They can poison fish and wildlife, contaminate food sources, and destroy the habitat that animals use for protective cover.