Posted by: sgu05ysw | October 11, 2007

Will increases in ethanol production from corn harm water quality?

A Report by the National Research Council has found that water quality could be harmed and there could be potential water supply problems if forecasted increases in using corn for ethanol production go ahead.

There has been a large growth in corn ethanol production due to recent increases in oil prices, which has lead to agricultural shifts to growing corn and expanding biofuel crops into regions where there is currently little agriculture. This could change irrigation practices and increase the pressure on water resources in parts of the United States. Increases in fertilizer and pesticide use could also affect the water quality of groundwater, rivers and coastal and offshore waters, resulting in low-oxygen regions. These areas are usually referred to as ‘dead-zones’ and are toxic to most of the animal and plant life within the waters.

The report did find that some changes could reduce the impact of ethanol production from corn on water quality. For example, bio-fuels could potentially be irrigated with waste-water and more water efficient genetically modified crops could be developed. Also changes to agricultural practices could cut-down on nutrient pollution, for example, injecting fertilizer below the soil surface. 

Therefore, while an increase in ethanol production from corn is likely to harm water quality, some changes to agricultural practice could reduce the impacts.

Increase in ethanol production from corn could significantly harm water quality, (2007), [www], (11th October 2007)


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