Submitted to: American Chemical Society Monograph Series
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 15, 1997
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: There is an increasing concern about the potential impact of farming practices on drinking water quality. Recent studies that have been summarized in newspapers have suggested that agricultural practices are having a widespread impact on water quality and that there are few options that will enhance water quality. Current farming practices across the Midwest vary and their effect on water quality also varies depending upon the tillage practice, time of herbicide application, and soil and climate. Runoff of herbicides can occur when there is movement of water off the field shortly after application of herbicides. The potential loss can be greatly reduced by changing the farming practice to decrease the chance of runoff through adding crop residue or mulch to the surface and limiting the amount of tillage. Farmers have been adopting practices that decrease runoff because it saves the soil and reduces labor costs. Impact of farming practices within a field have a small effect on ground water quality based on observations collected around fields. Movement of herbicides and nitrate to the ground water can be reduced by improved management of herbicides and nitrogen. There are many practices that could be adopted by farmers that would further enhance water quality and these practices could also increase yields and profits of the farmers.
Nonpoint source pollution has been linked with agricultural practices across the United States. Farming practices can be modified to improve ground and surface water quality and have a positive impact on sustainability and adaptability by the farmer. Farming practices can alter the hydrologic balance of a landscape and ground and surface water quality problems can be related to the flow of water through the landscape. Surface runoff, which is a major nonpoint source problem, can be reduced by adoption of conservation tillage practices. To fully understand the impact of farming practices on ground and surface water quality requires that each farming practice be examined from a mechanistic view of water management.