Phosphorus and Water

The graphs are telling but it’s still not enough. Click here to read the full article or an excerpt below.

Graph of phosphorus loads before and after restrictions on  phosphorus usage

 

Graph of phosphorus loads before and after restrictions on  phosphorus usage

 

Phosphorus is a common constituent of agricultural fertilizers, manure, and organic wastes in sewage and industrial effluent. It is an essential element for plant life, but when there is too much of it in water, it can speed up eutrophication (a reduction in dissolved oxygen in water bodies caused by an increase of mineral and organic nutrients) of rivers and lakes. Soil erosion is a major contributor of phosphorus to streams. Bank erosion occurring during floods can transport a lot of phosphorous from the river banks and adjacent land into a stream, as this picture of the Rio Chama near Chamita, New Mexico shows (photograph by Lisa Carter).

Phosphorus in surface and groundwater

Phosphorus gets into water in both urban and agricultural settings. Phosphorus tends to attach to soil particles and, thus, moves into surface-water bodies from runoff. A USGS study on Cape Cod, Massachusetts showed that phosphorus can also migrate with groundwater flows. Since groundwater often discharges into surface water, such as through streambanks into rivers, there is a concern about phosphorus concentrations in groundwater affecting the water quality of surface water.

Phosphorus is an essential element for plant life, but when there is too much of it in water, it can speed up eutrophication (a reduction in dissolved oxygen in water bodies caused by an increase of mineral and organic nutrients) of rivers and lakes.

 

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