J500 Media and the Environment

Not a Drop to Drink by matthewtb

Access to fresh water is one of the most vital needs we have as humans. More than 70% of the world’s surface is covered by water. Given that 98% of this is oceanic salt water, we have little remaining for our consumption.

Since the industrial revolution, water has been used for everything from powering machinery to carrying away the waste byproducts of manufacturing. It wasn’t until the mid 20th century that groups, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), set more stringent regulations for industrial runoff.


In the past thirty years, raising livestock has become a huge industry. As our fresh water sources become polluted from animal waste, policies are being created to combat the dilemma. The EPA established the Clean Water Act, in 1972, as a way to help regulate the rise of chemicals found in out water systems.

Kansas has a large beef industry in the southwest part of the state. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) require these farms to use proper waste management. The department says, “Any facility with an animal unit capacity of 1,000 or more must obtain a Livestock Waste Management Permit.” Any smaller facility in question is also subject to register with the KDHE.

These livestock facilities, also referred to as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s), must abide by the regulations, to stay in business. But the regulations don’t always take into account what happens in the event of a waste lagoon’s structural failure, or excessive flooding that causes waste runoff.

The pollution doesn’t stop with animal production. The herbicides and pesticides being used on crops are also contaminating our fresh water supply. According to A Tale of Two Tomatoes by Section Z, “Most Americans have traces of half a dozen pesticides in their urine.” As plants and insects become resistant to these chemicals, farmers have to dump ever larger amounts to fight them off.

We have a finite source of drinkable water on this planet. The fresh glacier water is melting and the underground aquifers are drying up. The only water that will remain is the acid rain from the sky and the chemicals in the rivers and lakes. Hopefully our better judgment will prevent us from ever reaching this point.

-Matt Bristow

photo courtesy of: worldmapper.org


4 Comments so far
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I love how everyone is so obsessed with oil as THE non-renewable resource, when our fresh water is constantly diminishing, and I don’t know about you, but I tend to think water is more important than oil …

But Matt, when has “better judgment” ever prevailed? Sigh …

Comment by alyv

[…] Not a Drop to Drink – Water Pollution and the Environment […]


Water is going to be a big problem for Kansans, and I don’t think many of us realize it. We are still a strong agriculture state, but what will happen when we don’t have any water left (because we’re building coal plants or we lose some more fights with Colorado)?

Comment by Lauren Keith

Lack of fresh water is an issue that will greatly increase in our lifetime. As the planet reaches it’s carrying capacity, we will have to find ways to conserve and reuse water.

Comment by matthewtb

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