More than 190 segments of Missouri rivers, streams, and lakes are altered from pollution from agricultural fertilizers, livestock wastes, and urban runoff.
And without action, say two University of Missouri professors, more drinking water utilities may need to spend significant amounts of money to keep their water supply healthy, increasing tariffs for customers.
Professors – Robin Rotman and Kathleen Trauth – suggest changing the Clean Water Act, who will be 50 next year, to strengthen regulations on “diffuse” pollution, contamination that indirectly enters waterways instead of being discharged from a single location.
Rotman and Trauth written in Ecology Law Quarterly in September recommending three changes to federal environmental law. The law, they said, has succeeded in cleaning up contamination from industrial sites, wastewater treatment facilities and other “point” sources of pollution, but has little power to tackle source pollution. non-punctual.
“As a result, diffuse source pollution is the leading cause of water quality problems in the United States today. ”
Diffuse sources contribute large amounts of E. coli, phosphorus, chlorophyll and other pollutants in Missouri streams. More than 36% of streams, lakes and rivers listed as weathered in Missouri are due to diffuse pollution.
Rotman and Trauth recommended that the Clean Water Act be amended to require states to put in place diffuse pollution controls, a revision they said would likely be opposed by powerful lobby groups on behalf of farmers, ranchers. and real estate developers.
They wrote that it is more politically popular to offer voluntary programs, such as cost-sharing agreements to encourage farmers to plant vegetation that prevents fertilizer runoff from reaching waterways.
“While these programs have dramatically improved water quality in some areas, the fact remains that the majority of water bodies in the United States are still degraded,” they wrote. “Voluntary measures to reduce diffuse pollution have only gotten us so far. “
Researchers also suggest amending the Safe Drinking Water Act to regulate pollutants that could inhibit the ability of drinking water. They say the law already does this for industrial pollution sources, but not for agriculture.
The document tells Des Moines where the water utility sued upstream drainage districts for high levels of nitrates entering the drinking water supply, forcing the utility to install an expensive form of water treatment. to remove pollutants.
“If this raw water is of lower quality then the treatment costs are going to be higher,” Rotman said in an interview, adding that this could lead to higher bills from customers.
“Requiring drinking water utilities to install advanced treatment technologies is problematic as it results in additional expenses for drinking water customers who were not responsible for the pollutant releases,” the document said.
Trauth said the Clean Water Act has made significant progress.
“But there are still areas where there is a little bit of disconnect and where we kind of need to come full circle,” she said.