Harmful algal blooms are a major environmental problem in all 50 states. Known as red tides, blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, harmful algal blooms have severe impacts on human health, aquatic ecosystems and the economy.
Nutrient pollution can affect vital ground water sources and our drinking water. Surface waters, like lakes, rivers and streams, provide drinking water for about 170 million people in the United States. Some of these waters are impaired or affected by excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. Ground water is water that soaks into the soil and into the water table, and close to 90 million people rely on ground water as a drinking water supply. As ground water works its way through the soil, it can pick up nitrogen and phosphorus and transport them to the water table. This polluted water then reaches public drinking water systems and private wells, where it can pose serious public health threats. Public drinking water systems can also bear a substantial financial burden to treat drinking water polluted by nutrients. EPA’s 2010 report on nutrients in the nation’s streams and groundwater found that nitrate contamination of ground water used for drinking water, particularly shallow domestic wells in agricultural areas, is a growing concern.