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Drain tiling, the hidden accelerator of water pollution

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

agricultural drain tile

Story at-a-glance -

  • Industrial agriculture is a primary source of water pollution and toxic algae growth that result in huge dead zones where all aquatic life is suffocated
  • With the high levels of spring and summer rains seen in many parts of the Midwest this year, NOAA estimates the summer 2019 dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico will reach roughly 7,829 square miles, which is about the size of Massachusetts
  • The speed of agricultural runoff is largely dictated by poor soil conditions that prevent water retention, but artificial drainage also appears to play a decisive role, adding to the problem by speeding up the runoff
  • In recent years, there’s been a significant uptick in the practice, and it’s not entirely known just how much of our farmland is being artificially drained into our waterways
  • According to one research engineer, drainage tiles double the speed at which nitrates enter waterways

I’ve written many articles discussing how industrial agriculture is a primary source of water pollution and toxic algae growth that result in huge dead zones where all aquatic life is suffocated. There are 18 major river basins in the continental U.S., with the largest belonging to rivers that feed the Mississippi River, currently the seventh-most polluted river in the world.

A July 2, 2019, presentation in The Wall Street Journal offers an in-depth look at how agricultural expansion is driving the Mississippi River’s demise. You can scroll through fact boxes for each section of the river, starting in the north and moving all the way down to the Gulf.


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