Agricultural practices can help reduce runoff, but filtering runoff to remove sediment, chemicals, and debris can improve downstream water quality. Agricultural contaminants can have a significant impact on the quality of surface and groundwater. Fertilizers and pesticides are not static in the landscape where they are applied; runoff and infiltration carry these pollutants to local streams, rivers, and groundwater. Additionally, when land is converted for agricultural use, it is modified to optimize it for agricultural production, which can have unwanted environmental consequences on receiving waters and their ecosystems, including changes in water quality and quantity.
Prevention, control, and capture practices are essential to reduce the amount of nutrients that flow from farmland to waterways and to improve the resilience of farmland. Keeping the soil in the field not only provides better soil for crop production but also reduces the amount of sediment that enters the water table. Agricultural land makes up nearly 30% of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which includes the District of Columbia and parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. This excess nitrogen and phosphorus can be washed from agricultural fields into waterways during rains or when snow melts, as well as seep through the soil over time and reach groundwater. Agricultural chemicals enter and pass through all components of the hydrological system, including air, soil, ground water, streams, wetlands, and groundwater.
For example, at least one pesticide was found in approximately 94% of water samples and in more than 90% of fish samples taken from streams across the country, as well as in nearly 60% of shallow wells sampled. The USGS has developed a modular modeling system (MMS) to simulate water and solute flows through watersheds. Through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the NRCS works with farmers and landowners to combat invasive species, protect watersheds and coastlines from pollution from diffuse sources, restore wetlands and other habitat areas. In order to reduce agricultural development's effects on air and water quality in north-central Colorado, it is important to implement prevention strategies such as filtering runoff to remove sediment, chemicals, and debris. Additionally, conservation practices should be implemented to reduce nutrient runoff from farmland into waterways. Finally, utilizing USGS research on topics related to agriculture and water quality can help inform decisions about agricultural practices. To ensure that agricultural development does not have a negative impact on air and water quality in north-central Colorado, it is important to take proactive steps such as filtering runoff to remove pollutants before they enter waterways.
Finally, utilizing USGS research on topics related to agriculture and water quality can help inform decisions about agricultural practices.