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Pollutants from agriculture a serious threat to world's water

22.06.2018, 19:39 3291
Water pollution from unsustainable agricultural practices poses a serious risk to human health and the planet's ecosystems, a problem often underestimated by policymakers and farmers alike, cautions a new report.

In many countries the biggest source of water pollution today is agriculture - not cities or industry - while worldwide, the most common chemical contaminant found in groundwater aquifers is nitrate from farming, according to More People, More Food, Worse Water? A Global Review of Water Pollution from Agriculture, launched by FAO and the International Water Management Institute at a conference in Tajikistan (19-22 June), the UNFAO official website reads.

Modern agriculture is responsible for the discharge of large quantities of agrochemicals, organic matter, sediments and saline trading into water bodies, the report says.

This pollution affects billions of people and generates annual costs exceeding billions of dollars.

Agriculture is the single largest producer of wastewater, by volume, and livestock generates far more excreta than do humans. As land use has intensified, countries have greatly increased the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other inputs," write Eduardo Mansur, Director of FAO's Land and Water Division, and Claudia Sadoff, IWMI Director-General, in their introduction to the report.

While these inputs have helped boost food production, they have also given rise to environmental threats, as well as to potential human health concerns," they add.

The agropollutants of greatest concern for human health are pathogens from livestock, pesticides, nitrates in groundwater, trace metallic elements and emerging pollutants, including antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant genes excreted by livestock.

The new report represents the most comprehensive review of the dispersed scientific literature on the issue complied to date, and aims to fill information gaps and lay out policy and farm-level solutions in one consolidated reference.

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