This fact sheet is aimed to inform the reader about the danger that is around groundwater resources and is caused by the impact of agriculture. It will summarize the activities that influence groundwater development, describe the risk, under which groundwater as well as health can be, and analyze the methods of control that can be used to improve the situation and prevent negative consequences.
People have to be aware about the impact of their activities on groundwater and be able to improve the conditions, they live under, and this piece of writing will inform each reader about each detail that will be crucial for groundwater and the activities, which will help to maintain it from pollution.
Groundwater resources and human activities
“Groundwater constitutes 97 per cent of global freshwater and is an important source of drinking-water in many regions of the world” (Schmoll et al. 4). Such explanation of groundwater helps to underline the significance of this component in our everyday life and clear up that the problems, which happen within groundwater, may considerably influence our planet.
Groundwater pollution may lead to disruption of this life to its full extent. Numerous activities have been already taken in order to prevent groundwater pollution, but unfortunately the government of any country is not able to solve this problem and save this planet.
Groundwater is available for many users from different spheres of life, and it turns out to be impossible to forbid them using water and purify it of all undesirable chemicals. Population growth provides increasing of living standards and food demands, this is why the sphere of agriculture develops day by day and requires land for cultivation, irrigation, salinity, and, of course, waterlogging.
All these activities that are primary aimed at improving human lives and feeding populations have negative impact on groundwater and promote groundwater contamination within the shortest period of time. Agriculture is considered to be the main factor of environmental pressure that causes groundwater pollution because of intensive cultivation, inability to control water use, and lack of technologies to purify water.
As a rule, groundwater pollution is caused by three reasons:
Urban living demands
Agriculture and its essence as the major influential factor in groundwater analysis
Agriculture is a significant user of groundwater in the sense of abstractions and in the incidental sense that implies releasing nitrates and salts as the major pollutants of water (Dosi vii). More than 1,5 billions hectares are cultivated nowadays in order to meet the demands of people and provide them with a chance to feed and exchange goods in order to survive.
About 18 % of this number is irrigated land, and its water usually comes from surface water that is located in reservoirs. In order to support irrigated land, it is necessary to provide considerable amounts of groundwater. This is why abstraction for irrigation is considered to be one of the most important environmental pressure factors.
And the investigations by Llamas and his team prove that the use of groundwater has raised considerably in the last 50 years (Llamas and Custodio 93). Groundwater use is inherent to many ancient civilizations, and its boom was caused by supply-push factors like availability of cheap pumps and development of drilling technologies at the beginning of the 1920 (Molden 395).
Irrigation and waterlogging play a very important role in agriculture and influence groundwater pollution
Unbelievable growth of irrigated agriculture and frequent demand for water requires the use and storing of surface water. Groundwater irrigation started its development at the beginning of the 1900s, but its breakthrough has been achieved in the 1930s, when numerous drilling equipment and technologies became available to people. Irrigation is obligatory “to serve an increasingly productive agriculture, and investments… to adapt yesterday’s systems to tomorrow’s needs” (Molden 353).
Waterlogging takes place in case agricultural land is somewhere over underground layers, where it is hard to reach the necessary amount of water. Such places are characterized by difficulties with percolation of water that may lead to groundwater levels’ rising one day. In order to solve the problems of waterlogging, certain practices have to be taken: source reduction, biological filtering, and reuse of water.
Nitrate and pesticides as one of the principal nutrients that is considerable for groundwater and for health hazards due to their chemical components
Usually, fertilizers are used in order to fasten the growth of plants and gather as much harvest as possible. However, people cannot even guess that the use of any kind of fertilizers lead to dangerous water pollution and the disaster that is waiting for use in future because of groundwater contamination.
Agricultural activities are regarded as the source of nitrate in groundwater. In fact, the leaching of nitrate is a natural process, however, this process usually depends on “the accelerated nitrogen cycle in soil” (Sapek 3) that is considered to be a result of agricultural activities. The risk of pollution by these very nitrates is really high and depends on the interaction that may happen between nitrogen loading and aquifer’s vulnerability.
Vulnerability comprises the intrinsic properties of the strata separating a saturated aquifer from the land surface which determine the sensitivity of that aquifer to being adversely affected by pollution loads applied at the land surface (Schmoll et al. 202).
The process of groundwater pollution that depends on nitrate and vulnerability with loading interactions take place in several steps. Vulnerability of groundwater depends on soil properties, which influence the depth of the pathway on the Figure1. Within this pathway, water and pollutants move together from the surface (soil) to the receptor, gathering certain damage in groundwater, which have been left before.
Figure 1: Groundwater Pollution
Governmental framework to prevent groundwater pollution
In order to prevent the groundwater pollution and not affect the sphere of agriculture that is crucial for human lives, it is necessary to develop a program that will be able to control the use of water on different levels.
Government has to work out the legislation policy in order to protect and control groundwater resources. It is obligatory to evaluate the impact of agricultural operations, which are influential for water resources.
Groundwater mapping, ground- and surface-water monitoring, watershed models should be developed as well in different regions simultaneously. These activities allow not only to control the use of water but also to analyze what factor and where exactly influence pollution.
Each person is able to help his/her own country and land and prevent pollution of groundwater! It is enough to use pesticides or fertilizers on gardens carefully, deal with other chemicals safely, plant native plants in gardens, and finally control the use of chemicals and oil at streets.
Mass media has to participate in the activities to inform people about the negative impact of agriculture and possible steps, which may be taken to prevent planet’s pollution.
Certain quality standards for water uses have to be settled in order to clean up the most contaminated sites.
Encouragement of the agricultural activities that can minimize the negative impact of groundwater, for example waste disposal or hazardous chemicals within transports.
Groundwater is of huge importance to many countries’ development. Its considerable distribution, low costs, and really good quality have already led to productive agricultural irrigation. Many groundwater resources, which aim at meeting human needs and demands for surviving, undergo certain changes day by day, because people create more and more technologies and goods and the use of these sources becomes irreversible.
One of the most frequent source of groundwater pollution is the use of chemicals. Pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are considered to be agricultural sources of pollution, and the most terrible point is that this waste is usually washed down with the runoff and cannot be prevented. It is not enough for the government to develop a policy and follow it step be step.
In order to achieve good results and save our planet from a disaster because of groundwater pollution, it is necessary to ask each citizen to participate in the programs concerning prevention of groundwater contamination and be careful with the use of chemicals and other type of waste. If people do not care about the earth they live on, one day, the earth cannot stand human treatment and rebel against all human nation. And it will be a disaster.
Dosi, Cesare. Agricultural Use of Groundwater: Towards Integration between Agricultural Policy and Water Resources Management. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001. Print.
Llamas, Ramon and Custodio, Emilio. Intensive Use of Groundwater – Challenges and Opportunities. The Netherlands: A. A. Balkema Publishers, 2003. Print.
Molden David. Water for food, water for life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture. Sterling, VA: International Water Management Institute, 2007. Print.
Sapek, A. “Agricultural Activities as a Source of Nitrates in Groundwater.” In Nitrates in Groundwater: Selected Papers from the European Meeting of the International Association of Hydrodeologists, Wisla, Poland, 4-7 June 2002 by Lidia Razowska-Jaworek and Andrej Sadurski. London: Taylor&Francis Group, 2005.
Schmoll, Howard, Guy, Chilton, John, and Chorus, Ingrid. Protecting Groundwater for Health: Managing the Quality of Drinking-Water Sources. London: World Health Organization, 2006. Print.