The Connection Between Fertilizer and Water Quality
Water quality starts at home
Clean water in our lakes, reservoirs and streams starts at home with basic practices you can incorporate into your lawn and garden care program. There is a pipeline from your garden to a body of water. Regardless of where you live, you are a part of a watershed —a region where water flows across or under on its way to a lake, river, stream or ocean. Year-round lawn and garden care practices impact water quality even if you don’t live near a body of water.
The problem: Water-soluble Phosphorous
Thanks to modern science, we now understand how the phosphorous contained in fertilizer contributes to poor water quality. Phosphorous is the middle number on the ”NPK” analysis printed on a fertilizer bag. It is present in all living things including the soil. Too much phosphorous however, can disrupt nature’s delicate balance. Runoff carries excess phosphorous from fertilizers across lawns, roads and woods into ditches and streams which eventually run into reservoirs, lakes, bays or the ocean. Water soluble phosphorous is ”junk food” for the algae present in all these waterways.
Lawns – a big contributor to the problem
Lawns and plants are not usually able to absorb all of the water soluble fertilizers in chemical fertilizers, so some of it becomes the source of water pollution. As algae grow out of control (known as algae ”bloom”) it reduces the clarity and visibility of the water. This in turn reduces photosynthesis by oxygen-producing aquatic plants, therefore reducing the oxygen in the water. Some forms of blue-green algae can even be toxic. Repeated algae blooms can create green-colored lakes with low oxygen that often results in fish kills or depleted water habitat for fish, wildlife and humans. Additionally, such conditions may degrade drinking water supplies and create other environmental nuisances. Many cities have put a ban on the use of chemical fertilizers in close proximity to lakes and rivers for this very reason.
The impact of algae
As watersheds are adapted from their natural state to residential, commercial, or industrial uses, the amount of phosphorous runoff into lakes may increase up to five to ten times. Algae-impacted lakes affect a community in several ways. Poor water quality significantly impacts the recreational value and use of the waterway and may reduce the value of the surrounding properties.
My personal concern
I am personally affected in this manner. I live on a 45 acre walnut farm which also serves as a testing ground for a wide variety of plants and trees. A good-sized creek runs through the property. From time to time, I personally witness algae blooms in the creek’s water as the neighboring farms apply chemical fertilizers and sprays to their crops. I enjoy fishing and eating a fresh-caught trout or bass once in a while, but I am genuinely concerned about the quality of the creek water which directly affects the quality of the fish in this creek. Of course, I only use organic fertilizers on my farm, but I cannot control what the other farmers use. This is a good illustration of the importance of using water-insoluble fertilizers such as Dr. Earth® around our homes, farms and communities.
Pollution from runoff
Runoff of agro-chemicals during storm and irrigation events is a significant concern from the standpoint of surface water quality. The delivery of phosphorous and pesticides into the surface water via runoff may contribute acute or chronic eco-toxic effects. Numerous studies have documented that the transport of agro-chemicals via runoff to streams is facilitated primarily by sediment movement. It has been observed that concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen are often richer in the deposited sediment than the source soil. Fine soil particles if not blended with coarse organic materials tend to move quickly during irrigation or runoff events. This becomes even more critical in times of heavy rainfall as sediment-laden runoff moves from the land to the waterways.
There is a solution to phosphorous runoff. Dr. Earth® organic fertilizers contain only water-insoluble forms of phosphorous and will ensure that the fertilizer applied remains in the soil. The phosphorous will not leach into the water table and travel into waterways. Dr. Earth® contains Pro-Biotic™ with its beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizae. A vital mechanism for nutrient transfer by plants lies in the microbial process of the soil. The microbes’ ability to breakdown organic matter quickly, then release it as plant nutrients slowly and continuously over time, increases yield and builds the humus reserve in the soil. Humus conversion increases the soils ability to absorb and retain water, further reducing runoff and fertilizer loss caused by water or other erosive forces.
Be part of the solution!
Apply fertilizers only when they are needed, during the proper season, and in the correct amounts. Avoid getting the fertilizer on driveways, sidewalks, and in storm drains. Above all, apply carefully, especially when using chemical fertilizers.
Don’t let your fertilizers get into lakes, streams, or ponds. On lawns, use a mulching mower and cut no more than the top third of the grass. Keep leaves, grass clippings and soil out of streets and gutters. Clean up after your pet, pet waste contains phosphorous. Prevent soil erosion by covering the ground with vegetation or mulch. Feed plants in your yard, garden, and lawn with Dr. Earth® organic fertilizers, to avoid applying water soluble phosphorous.
We all share the same pool of water. Be conscientious in your gardening habits to ensure that future generations will enjoy a healthy, toxic-free environment. Poor water quality can impact the ability of fish and other wildlife to reproduce, feed, and survive in the dynamic aquatic environment. It all starts in our own backyard and ends in a large body of water. Please act as a responsible steward of our environment.
Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator