Research in Great Britain Warns of Worldwide Nitrate Crisis
A study conducted by the British Geological Survey warns that there are huge quantities of nitrate chemicals from farm fertilizers are polluting the rocks beneath our feet. Researchers at the say it could have severe global-scale consequences for rivers, water supplies, human health and the economy.
They say the nitrate will be released from the rocks into rivers via springs.
That will cause toxic algal blooms and fish deaths, and will cost industry and consumers billions of dollars year in extra water treatment.
The researchers estimate that there are up to 180 million tons of nitrate are stored in rocks worldwide–perhaps twice the amount stored in soils. They say this is the first global estimate of the amount of nitrate trapped between the soil layer and the water-bearing aquifers below. They warn that over time the nitrate will inevitably slowly seep into the aquifers.
In some developed countries, the amount of nitrate stored in the rocks is increasing, despite improvements in farming practice and the introduction of rules to control the pollutant. In developing countries, the problem is currently not so severe. But there is an urgent need for early intervention to avoid the environmental damage experienced by rich countries.
Matthew Ascott, hydro-geologist at the BGS and lead author of the study, said: “With big investments being made to reduce water pollution through changes in farming, it is vital that we understand what pollution is already in the environment. Water and the pollutant travels through the rocks below our feet very slowly. This and a history of intensive agriculture means that a large store of nitrate pollution has built up over time. When this pollution is released, it will continue to impact water quality for decades, in some cases, even where controls on fertilizer use have been put in place.”
Reference source: BBC.