A new study released by the University of California, Davis has concluded that 1 in 10 people living in California’s most productive agricultural areas is at risk for harmful levels of nitrate contamination in their drinking water. This pervasive problem is only going to get worse over the next several decades as nitrate applied to today’s crops slowly makes its way into groundwater. Once the nitrate reaches these California aquifers, the aquifers will remain contaminated for decades, even if there is a substantial reduction in the surface nitrate being introduced.

Many who live in agricultural areas are concerned about chemical fertilizers and increased manure concentrations contaminating their drinking water. The problem with relying upon the government and private industry to address groundwater contamination issues is that they are not going to provide an effective solution any time soon. Whatever the proposed solution, it will take at least 5 years since the problem was discovered for there to be significant improvement in the water quality. This is 5 years after the issue was discovered. Prior to that who knows how long residents and farm workers may have been exposed to the harmful contaminants. We could be talking about decades of exposure now.

Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and a report co-author says, “This report should help inform discussions among people involved with drinking water, waste discharge, and agricultural issues, including various local and state government agencies.” He further stated that “cleaning up nitrate in groundwater is a complex problem with no single solution.” That’s a start. However immediate action is needed to protect one’s family against contaminated water.

The only effective way to instantly prevent exposure to harmful chemicals or contaminants in a water supply is with the proper home water filtration system. Waiting for a solution from the government is certainly not going to provide a fast remedy. The good news is that a quality whole house water filter or a well water filtration system will ensure that you have safe, healthy water for drinking and bathing at every faucet in your home. Groundwater contamination issues in agricultural areas such as these are not just limited to those with well water. They have likely been growing over the last several decades and now pose greater risks to city water systems.

As early as the 1940s, a shift from pasture-raised dairy cattle to confined animal facilities, synthetic fertilizer use and increased manure applications to cropland have resulted in the accumulation of excess nitrate in groundwater, the report says. Over the last few decades crop production in California has increased almost exponentially with the aid of nitrogen in the new synthetic and organic fertilizers. However some cancers, thyroid illnesses and reproductive problems have been linked to excess nitrate in groundwater from the use of surface nitrogen.

Now 4 long years after after the state legislature passed a 2008 mandate requiring an examination of nitrate contamination in the Tulare and Salinas basins, the study’s findings have confirmed what already has become a considerable health issue. The report, commissioned by the California State Water Resources Control Board, is the first completely comprehensive scientific investigation of nitrate contamination in the water basin for Fresno, Bakersfield, Salinas and other areas of the Salinas Valley near Monterey.

Thomas Howard, executive director of the State Water Board which funded the study, said,”California groundwater quality is a significant concern to the water boards, and this comprehensive report presents current science and potential solutions on how to deal with this chronic and long-standing issue”. Fortunately for all residents, a good water filter will provide a very cost-effective solution to this alarming situation.

Almost half of California’s irrigated cropland and more than half of the state’s confined animal farming industry has potentially tainted groundwater. The report stated that as many as a quarter of a million people in the Tulare Lake Basin and the Salinas Valley depend upon water that may exceed the nitrate standard set by the California Department of Public Health. Between 10 and 15 percent of these residents live below the poverty line.

Source: University of California, Davis