19th Century Farming and 21st Century Technology: The Path to Cleaner Water

Kelly Kennedy.

“From water does all life begin.” Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, published in 1965, underscored the importance of the fundamental element of life: water. Writing of a world where water is scarce—highly valued by all—he emphasized conservation and the use of technology to help people create, retain, and reclaim clean water. Fast-forward fifty years and the technology is now here—technology that can help us conserve and purify our water. But our waters are still polluted. While a variety of factors play a role, one of the leading causes is agricultural pollution. The technology today, however, can help to prevent agricultural pollution. It offers a way toward a world with cleaner water. Equipped with the new technology and utilizing old-fashioned farming techniques, farmers can prevent the run-off coming off their farms.

Farmers are often seen as the backbone of America, not polluters. Advertisements during election season feature the picturesque image of the farmer. The farm ideal is even displayed in the coveted commercial spots of the Super Bowl. Who can forget the 2013 Super Bowl Dodge Ram commercial playing Paul Harvey’s speech “So God Made a Farmer”? But what these images and ads do not show us is that famers also pollute our waters. Fertilizer and pesticides used on crops to boost yields, such as atrazine and nitrates, can leach into groundwater and contaminate drinking water. Excess water from rain and irrigation that is not absorbed into the soil, runs off the farm, carrying with it a multitude of pollutants which can enter and infect lakes and rivers. The pollutants can have devastating impacts upon aquatic life, the ecosystem, and the availability of clean water.

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