Water pollution from agricultural runoff is a big problem. Polluted runoff from farms constitutes one of the largest sources of pollution for waterways around the United States. In the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, there are hundreds of chicken farms. In many instances, the chicken manure from these farms is washed off by rain into the Bay. Agriculture is also responsible for polluted runoff of other animal waste, fertilizers, and pesticides. All these pollutants are washed into our Bay when it rains.
The two key elements that are harmful to water quality and its surrounding ecosystem are phosphorus and nitrogen. These elements feed the growth of algae, which blocks sunlight and soaks up oxygen in the water. The growth of algae leads to dead zones in the Bay -- areas where there is not enough dissolved oxygen for anything to survive.
Currently, the government is attempting to decrease runoff from farms using best management practices (BMP), which are collections of runoff reduction measures that the farmers can adopt. These include measures such as constructing riparian buffers along the edge of farms so trees can absorb excess nutrients, using cover crops to prevent soil erosion, and reducing the use of chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides.