“Nutrient pollution is a major threat to water quality. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus carried in runoff from city streets and farm fields or flowing out of wastewater treatment plants can fuel algae blooms that decrease oxygen needed by aquatic plants and animals. In the Gulf of Mexico, nutrients washed down by the Mississippi River have created a “dead zone” that stretches for thousands of square miles. At home, nutrient pollution can also lower property values, hinder recreation, and degrade drinking water quality. To help protect local streams and the Gulf, Illinois and 11 other states in the Mississippi River basin have pledged to develop strategies to reduce the nutrient loads leaving their borders. These strategies are part of a national plan developed by the Mississippi River, Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force.”- From Illinois’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Website

Researchers identified the major nutrient sources and their proportional contribution to nutrient loss to the Mississippi River. See the table below for the breakdown.

Nutrient Source Proportion of Nutrient Loss to Mississippi River
Nitrogen Phosphorus
Agricultural Runoff 82% 48%
Point Source (wastewater treatment, etc…) 16% 48%
Urban Runoff 2% 4%

Researchers then identified best management practices (BMP’s) that are effective at reducing nutrient losses. The targets are 25% reduction of phosphorous loss and 15% reduction of nitrogen loss by 2025. Reductions will be achieved through voluntary implementation of BMPs. The national hypoxia working group set the eventual target reduction of N and P flowing into the Gulf of Mexico at 45%.

The agricultural reductions will be realized through voluntary conservation practices.

said Laura Lurkins, Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) director of natural and environmental resources in IFB’s December 8th issue of Farm Week.