Agriculture and Water Quality
Water quality is vital for the success of agriculture, and in turn, proper agriculture
management practices are necessary to meet domestic water quality standards and provide
for ecosystem health. Cooperation between agriculture and domestic water users is
necessary to provide adequate water quality for both parties.
Water Quality Impacts on Agriculture
The quality of water entering an agriculture area is extremely important for agriculture success. Too often, water quality is not suitable for agriculture uses. High salt concentrations limit the amount of water a plant can take up, resulting in high plant stress and decreased crop yields. High concentrations of metals also have negative effects on crop production.
Impacts of Agriculture on Water Quality
Agricultural practices may also have negative impacts on water quality. Improper agricultural methods may elevate concentrations of nutrients, fecal coliforms, and sediment loads. Increased nutrient loading from animal waste can lead to eutrophication of water bodies which may eventually damage aquatic ecosystems. Animal waste may also introduce toxic fecal coliforms which threaten public health. Grazing and other agriculture practices may intensify erosion processes raising sediment input to nearby water sources. Increased sediment loads make drinking water treatment more difficult while also affecting fish and macroinvertebrates.
Eutrophication is a condition in an aquatic ecosystem where high nutrient concentrations stimulate blooms of algae resulting in plant death and decay. Bacteria involved in the decay process use up oxygen, causing oxygen depletion which can affect other organisms living in the water. Eutrophication is a natural process; however, human activities can greatly accelerate eutrophication by increasing the rate at which nutrients and organic substances enter aquatic ecosystems from their surrounding watersheds. Agricultural and urban runoff, leaking septic systems, sewage discharges, and eroded stream banks can increase the flow of nutrients and organic substances into aquatic systems.