Issue Area

Nutrient Pollution

Overview

Nutrient pollution is when an overabundance of nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, enter the water system. These nutrients are natural, but in high quantities they can lead to an overgrowth of algae–known as “algal blooms”–and decrease oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive. The primary sources of excess nutrients are runoff from fertilizers and animal manure, discharges from domestic and municipal sewage systems, and stormwater runoff. Nutrient pollution is detrimental to human health and the economy. Excessive nitrogen is also a common drinking water contaminant and particularly harmful for infants.

NCEL Point of Contact
Angela Yuan

Project Manager for Sustainable Agriculture and Water

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Key Facts

Nutrient pollution threatens drinking water and the ecological stability of rivers and lakes through algal blooms and hypoxic zones.

Only 1.6% of rivers and streams in the 10 state Mississippi River corridor are tested for phosphorus, and 0.6% are tested for nitrates.

Economic activity connected to the Mississippi River generates $405 billion annually and supports 1.3 million jobs, all of which depend on a healthy river.

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Resources

NCEL Resources

Online Resources

State of the River 2016

This report by the Friends of the Mississippi River and US National Park Service includes 14 key indicators of water quality and ecological health in the river, including swimming and recreation, flow and hydrology, and river life.

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