Animal Waste & Water Pollution

what it is, why it's happening, & how it effects you

What is it exactly?

All over the world there are thousands and thousands of livestock farms, mainly harboring cows, hogs, and poultry. The number of animals is so massive that a reoccurring problem is becoming more and more of a pressing issue: what's happening to all the waste produced by these animals? Unfortunately, a lot of the time this waste gets pushed or washed into rivers, ponds, lakes, and even into the very water you and I drink every single day. Animal waste is considered a non-point source pollution, which means this kind of pollution can come from a number of different places.

Where Does This Happen?

In the picture below, the dark brown states are the states that have the most water pollution caused specifically by animal waste. Texas, Kansas, and North Carolina (to name a few) are a dark brown because they have a larger number of animal farms whose main concern may not be disposing of waste properly or they may not be able to dispose of the waste properly. Other states, like New Hampshire and Massachusetts, are the white color because the percentage of animal waste pollution in water is very low. In other countries, such as India (the country with the highest population of cattle), the water pollution caused by animal waste is a serious problem. Cattle populations are incredibly high, and the ability to maintain their waste is very low.
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Threats to Human Health

Pollution caused by animal waste can make humans seriously ill. Contaminated water from waste lagoons can and often does seep into ground water, which can lead to the feces of these farm animals getting into the drinking water of communities. Since the water supply is tainted with bacteria and viruses, an outbreak usually occurs and many people will get sick all at once.

Threats to Animal Health

Large scale animal farming, without the proper steps taken to prevent run-off and general contamination of the water around the area, can be harmful and even deadly to both the animals on the farm and the wild animals near the facility. The animals on the farm are constantly close to their own feces and urine. Sometimes even their own drinking water is contaminated with the bacteria. Wild animals have to deal with unclean drinking water and adulterated living spaces, which unfortunately kills thousands and thousands of animals. Since the water is what is being polluted, aquatic animals like fish are usually the first to die. As fish die, other animals lose their food sources and they will also perish. It's a vicious cycle.

So, what can we do?

The best way to avoid polluting rivers, ponds, and lakes with animal waste is to take take the necessary steps in preventing it from happening all together. Animal farms, especially large scale ones, should have a proper way to dispose of the mass amounts of waste their animals create. Proper containment areas and fencing can stop run-off and over flow from ever happening. The more cautious facilities are the more likely pollution levels will decrease.

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