Linking Water Pollution to Nutrient Prices - New AAEA Member Research

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A city of 500,000 lost access to water because it was unsafe. New research shows connection between contaminated water and nutrients used in farm fields.

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"We tested this across ag watersheds across the country. It's a pretty direct relationship between prices and nutrients."

Farmers have been using nutrients such as Phosphorus and Nitrogen in their fields for years; but at what price?

Water quality is suffering, in part, due to runoff causing dangerous algae blooms. In 2014, the city of Toledo, Ohio, told its 500,000 residents to stop using tap water due to high levels of toxins found in the city’s water supply. The "Toledo Blade" did a series of stories on the city's "water crisis." Officials blamed algae in Lake Erie for causing the emergency situation.

The impact of nutrient use on water led to federally-sponsored voluntary programs aimed at preventing what happened in Toledo. It’s the focus of a paper by Brent Sohngen of The Ohio State University entitled “The Implications of Environmental Policy on Nutrient Outputs in Agricultural Watersheds.”

“Farmers put more nutrients on their fields when nutrient prices are lower,” Sohngen said. “We tested watersheds across the county and there is a pretty direct relationship between prices and nutrients.”

Sohngen will discuss his research and what might be done to lower water pollution to “reasonable levels” during an AAEA session of the 2016 Allied Social Sciences Association Annual Meeting (ASSA) in San Francisco, California, January 3-5.

The session is Sunday, January 3, at 10:15 a.m. (PST) at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis (Room Sierra C).

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Jay Saunders
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