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March 13, 2012 

California Report Shows Massive Farm Pollution Contaminates Rural Drinking Water

Statement by Noel Gurwick, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2012) – In response to a 2008 directive from the California Legislature, the University of California today released a report, “Addressing Nitrogen in California’s Drinking Water,” that identifies the root causes of nitrogen contamination in the state’s groundwater and offers solutions for remedying the problem.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has been tracking for several years the consequences of rampant nitrogen pollution – which disrupts ecosystems, causes a variety of health problems, and costs taxpayers billions.

Below is a statement by Noel Gurwick, senior scientist with UCS’s Food & Environment Program.

“The report found that agriculture is responsible for 96 percent of nitrogen pollution in groundwater. And while this statistic is specific to California, the problem is not.

“Nitrogen is a key component of fertilizer. In agricultural regions across the country, nitrogen fertilizer ends up running off the fields, into streams and rivers, and leaching into groundwater – which is the primary source of drinking water in many rural communities. Frequently, nitrate concentrations in groundwater exceed public health standards.

“A national problem of this magnitude warrants a national solution. This year, Congress is expected to renew the Farm Bill, which offers opportunities to address nitrogen pollution at its source. Through programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Farm Bill can help farmers adopt practices—including the use of cover crops, more complex crop rotations, and perennial crops—which improve soil and curb nitrogen pollution.”



The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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