Nonpoint Source Pollution
What are some of the environmental issues in regards to water?
Nonpoint source pollution (NSP) is toxic runoff from a variety of sources. The land is contaminated through some use. Then, precipitation transports the polluted runoff to areas sometimes far from its source. NSP is an issue both in urban and rural settings. It is a major cause of water pollution in the United States.
Agricultural runoff illustrates the conflict between meeting the needs of the people and impacting the environment. In this case, the environment has suffered at the expense of agricultural development. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farms have increased in size and efficiency. This increase translates into more pesticide and fertilizer use, larger livestock operations, and greater use of irrigation water.
Urban runoff is a function of impervious surfaces like roads and the pollutants found in urban areas. These contaminants include oil and gasoline on roads, hazardous household waste, and sediment from soil erosion.
The solutions for NSP include a move toward sounder farming practices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 90 percent of the sedimentation caused by farming can be controlled through best practices management. Likewise, reducing the amount of impervious surfaces will prevent urban runoff and slow soil erosion.
Habitat loss represents a major environmental issue which affects not only the biodiversity of ecosystems, but humans as well. A report by the U.S. Geological Survey identified grasslands, savannas, and barrens as the most critically endangered habitats in the United States, with losses up to 98 percent of the original habitat at European settlement. As a result, the Nature Conservancy estimates that 217 plant species and 71 animals special became extinct.
With this loss of habitat, there is an increased risk of human-wildlife conflicts as populations struggle to meet their ecological needs. According to State Farm Insurance, there were about 2.4 million deer-related collisions between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2009, more than an 18 percent increase over 5 years ago.
Air pollution impacts every aspect of life in the United States and on the planet. Air pollution is so deadly because of its mobility. It can cause environmental issues far from its source, not unlike NSP. It can pollute the soil and aquatic resources through acid rain formation. It affects plants by negatively impacting their physiology, causing low crop yields and a reduction in plant vitality.
Air pollution also affects humans. Pollutants in industrial emissions cause anything from minor throat irritation to aggravation of existing respiratory conditions, to an increased risk of cancer.
What are some of the environmental issues in the United States? The problems with the most widespread impacts represent some of the greatest threats. These environmental issues show that national as well as local solutions are necessary to reduce the impacts on the environment. It is only through recognition of the existing problems and scrutiny of current practices can solutions be developed.
Photo by Hans Thoursie, stock.xchng
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Protecting Water Quality from Agricultural Runoff - epa.gov
U.S. Geological Survey: Endangered Ecosystems of the United States: A Preliminary Assessment of Loss and Degradation – biology.usgs.gov