Nitrogen and phosphorous are powerful nutrients. Commonly used in fertilizers, they have the ability to make grass green and to dramatically increase crop yields. Conversely, they also have the the power to pollute water and threaten human and aquatic life. Nitrogen and phosphorous are causing global problems. As the world’s population increases, nutrient runoff from farm fields as well as larger amounts of human waste are increasing nutrient pollution that stretches around the world.
The result is that one of the largest “dead zones” forms annually in the northern Gulf of Mexico as high levels of nitrogen are discharged from the Mississippi River. This creates a phenomenon known as hypoxia. Hypoxia, or low oxygen, occurs when the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water decreases to a level that can no longer support important living aquatic organisms. This cripples the Gulf as fish flee to find food and shrimp and crab are left to die.
Nutrient farming (NuFarmingTM) is a market-based strategy that uses restored wetlands designed, built and operated for the purpose of managing nutrients, trapping sediments and storing flood waters. Nutrient farms produce environmental credits, such as nutrient reduction credits, that can be sold to municipal or industrial waste-treatment facilities which need to meet a water quality standard and cannot cost effectively remove the nutrients themselves. NuFarmingTM simply involves growing wetlands and passing the contaminated water through the dense vegetation and over the organic soil.
The Environmental Protection Agency has now required that states pass new water quality standards for both nitrogen and phosphorous to reduce our pollution. Two options to manage nutrient pollution include using conventional “concrete and steel” technology, or the natural alternative “NuFarmingTM.”
A recent study by JP Morgan shows that nutrient farming could lessen the tax burden to Chicago area residents. NuFarmingTM will reduce the tax bill impact on homeowners within the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago service area by 51%,in contrast to building waste water treatment facilities to meet pending Illinois water quality standards. As shown in Figure 1, NuFarmingTM will also provide farmers with substantially more income as they begin to convert portions of their traditional low lying crops to Nufarms.
NuFarmingTM will provide benefits to rural and urban citizens alike by building a strong bridge between these communities.
The NuFarmingTM alternative is a dynamic process that needs to be adapted and analyzed.