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Agricultural runoff meets drinking water.

sediment runoff nrcs 2016a 1

How many times have you passed a planted field while driving through the state of Georgia? I myself can not imagine the number of farms I’ve seen in my twenty one years. Although I will always hold a special place in my heart for the farms I watched both sets of grandparents work. As a little girl I spent the majority of my time outside playing, and every now and then I was rounded up to help harvest. I always understood the importance of farming and knew exactly where my food was coming from.

As I got older I began to learn more about pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers and why they were necessary to produce the best crop possible. However something that had never crossed my mind was where do all those chemicals end up? Considering dry weather the majority ends up right where its supposed to on the plants it was intended for and evaporate slowly. But what if it rains? This is where things can get hairy and we can encounter Agriculture Runoff.

Agricultural Runoff is water from farm fields due to things like irrigation and rain or even melted snow that flows over the land and can absorb into the ground, enter bodies of waters, or evaporate. This runoff can contain things like defoliates, pesticides, sediment (soil particles), nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium from fertilizers) and metals, which can contaminate sources of water.

Likewise fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that you apply to your lawn can also find its way into water sources through storm drains/sewers. When these chemicals go into storm drains they are then discharged untreated into local streams, rivers and other surface water bodies. This can turn into drinking water for someone else and also affect local wildlife and their habitat.

So what can we do at home? Well we need to be careful about how and when we use chemicals on our lawns and crops. By making simple changes such as choosing organic alternatives when possible, and checking the weather forecast to avoid applying them before a storm we can cut down on the storm water pollution. Below are few other good points to remembering only rain belongs in the storm sewer drains.

  • Don’t dump anything down storm drains.
  • Wash your car over your lawn or gravel. This allows the ground to neutralize the soap and grime from your car rather than sending it directly to our creeks and streams.
  • Keep your septic system well-maintained to prevent leaks. A leaking septic system can leach harmful bacteria into storm sewer systems and local waterways.
  • It is also important to keep your system well- maintained to prevent costly repairs. 
  • Do not drain your pool, spa, or fountain to a storm drain. Allow chlorine to dissipate for several days. Test the water to ensure the residual chlorine is zero before slowly draining to a landscaped area. You may be able to drain to a sanitary sewer. Contact your local municipality for more information.