fertilizer runoff

Dana Cronin / Harvest Public Media

Millions of rural residents across the Midwest are at risk of nitrate contamination in their drinking water, but they might not know it.

 

Many rural residents get their drinking water from private wells, which are not regulated by state or federal governments. And if residents aren’t regularly testing their well water, they could be at risk of contamination.

 

Dana Cronin / Harvest Public Media

Illinois is the latest Midwestern state to earmark funding for a program to reduce nutrient runoff from farmland into waterways.

 

It’s the first time the state has dedicated money to its Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS). Twelve states within the Mississippi River basin have similar strategies in place, and some, like Iowa, have already funded their programs. 

 

Dana Cronin / Harvest Public Media

When it rains on Joe Rothermel’s central Illinois farm, most of the water drains into the nearby East Branch Embarras River. There, it begins a journey south through the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. As it flows through more and more farmland, fertilizer runoff -- which once nourished crops -- compounds the water’s nutrient load, resulting in a dead zone off the coast of Texas and Louisiana.