Illinois' Department of Agriculture published its bi-annual study that looked at how to improve water quality by cutting down on pollutants that runoff into streams and rivers. Runoff has been on the rise lately, and officials say reducing it involves more than just farmers.
Agricultural and environmental officials are mainly concerned with stopping excess nitrogen and phosphorus runoff. If too much of the stuff flows into a waterway, the chemicals can suck the oxygen out of the water, creating so-called “dead” zones that kill marine life.
Farming has a lot to do with the problem because of chemicals sprayed on crops. But Illinois Deputy Ag Director Warren Goetsch said cities also create problems for waterways.
“We have large urban areas that are also contributing," he explained. "You have urban stormwater contributions, you have point-source wastewater treatment plants.”
Ultimately, Illinois’ ag department wants to cut the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways in half by 2025. The latest report tracks the progress of that goal, including how much money has been invested in water research and land management practices.
This time, it showed an increase in both nitrogen and phosphorus runoff over the last few years. Goetsch said that's why doing things like limiting when farmers can spray their crops--and controlling the amount of chemicals water treatment plants use--is critical.
“Not everybody has to do everything, but everybody needs to do something, and I think that’s really the key. We need to have increased use of these better management practices on every acre of the state."
Over the last two years, about $60 million has been invested in Illinois to research and combat chemical runoff. The state also provided more than $175 million in loans that paid for a variety of water quality solutions.