MANHATTAN, Kansas — A sip of water, a wad of singles, a wending stream. According to research from the University of Kansas, all three suffer from chemical runoff — but not in the order and magnitude you might imagine. While a glass of drinking water tainted with nitrogen and phosphorus could wreak havoc with your health, the damage wrought upon the environment may also play poker with your pocketbook.
In his recently published study — Eutrophication of U.S. Freshwaters: Analysis of Potential Economic Damages — Professor of Aquatic Ecology and study author Walter K. Dodds examines the impact farm effluent visits upon the water bodies it pollutes. Using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, his team explains how nitrogen and phosphorus cause serious and costly side effects to surrounding ecosystems.
“We calculated potential annual value losses in recreational water usage, waterfront real estate, spending on recovery of threatened and endangered species, and drinking water,” study authors explain. “The combined costs were approximately $2.2 billion annually as a result of eutrophication in U.S. freshwaters.”
“We are providing underestimates,” Dodds told the Environmental News Service. “Although our accounting of the degree of nutrient pollution in the nation is fairly accurate, the true costs of pollution are probably much greater than $4.3 billion.” Dodds hopes that the study provides useful information to policy-makers who can address the complex problem of nutrient pollution across the country.