Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): water

New White House mitigation standard opens market opportunities for farmers and ranchers

farmToday, President Obama announced a plan to safeguard America’s land, water and wildlife by establishing a “no net loss” standard for mitigating impacts on natural resources and encouraging related private investment to deliver better outcomes for the environment.

The plan will create a more sustainable future for the energy and agriculture sectors, for example, that provide our nation’s food, fuel and fiber.

If there is one sector that I believe can gain the most from this new mitigation standard, it’s agriculture.

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Why wastewater treatment plants are investing in farmers

Wastewater treatment plant. Credit: Flickr user Florida Water Daily.

Wastewater treatment plant. Credit: Flickr user Florida Water Daily.

The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit represents one of the most contentious challenges in modern-day agriculture: who should pay for protecting water quality from excessive nutrient loads?

Excess nutrients in streams and watersheds can cause algae blooms as well as air and water pollution. Whether due to excess fertilizer runoff from agriculture, urban sewage, stormwater runoff, or air depositions of nitrogen, wastewater treatment facilities often bear the primary responsibility of nutrient removal in many watersheds. Under the Clean Water Act, these facilities are charged with cleaning water to a certain standard, which can be increasingly hard to meet – and to pay for – when excess nutrients are present.

But there are some interesting solutions in the works.

I asked Pat Sinicropi, Senior Director of Legislative Affairs at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), to tell me about the collaborative approach her organization is taking to solve the problem – by working with farmers. Read More »

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Water risk: Which food companies are managing it and how can they do better?

A Splash of Water

Credit: Flickr user phphoto2010

Unreliable water supply and quality is a source of enormous risk to the agricultural sector. That was the key takeaway of a new report from Ceres that evaluated 37 of the world’s leading agriculture, beverage, meat and packaged food companies to see how they are managing risks from diminishing water supplies and water quality.

In a nutshell, companies need to improve their performance.

Companies use huge amounts of water in the production of crops, which also affects water quality when nitrogen fertilizer not absorbed by plants runs off into waterways. Read More »

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We can have food security and a healthy environment

child eating cornThe way we produce food is getting a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. If current projections hold, we’ll have 9 billion mouths to feed by 2050 – 2 billion more than we have today.

Throughout history, when we’ve needed to expand food production, we’ve gone to nature’s vast storehouse and made withdrawals. In doing so, we’ve filled wetlands, dried up rivers, degraded habitat, and polluted our air and water.

We’ve already drawn down nature’s account to dangerously low levels, and we still need to produce more.

If we’re going to meet growing needs for food and water, we’re going to have to do it in ways that not only stop harming the environment, but actually improve the ecosystems that serve us. Business as usual just isn’t going to cut it.

Farmers lead the way

During the past decade, we’ve been in quiet conversations with farmers and ranchers about how to facilitate this transformation. As we’ve walked their land, we’ve seen some encouraging things. Read More »

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