What is Nutrient Pollution? (Text Only)

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Nutrient pollution occurs when there is an excess of nitrogen and phosphorus

  • 50 out of 50 states are impacted by nutrient pollution.
  • States have identified about 15,000 waterbodies in the United States with nutrient-related problems.
  • Reported drinking water violations for nitrates have nearly doubled in the last decade.

Nutrient pollution is widespread

  • Did you know the Mississippi River Basin spans 31 states and ultimately drains into the Gulf of Mexico?
  • The Mississippi River is the largest in the United States and creates the third largest river basin in the world.
  • Nutrient pollution from the Mississippi River Basin is causing a large “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that cannot support aquatic life.

Where does nutrient pollution come from?

Fossil fuels

  • 250 million cars and trucks in the United States release more than 7 million tons of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, contributing to pollution in the air and water.


  • Animal manure, excess fertilizer applied to crops and fields, and soil erosioon make agriculture a large source of nutrient pollution.
  • Livestock production generates close to 1 billion tons of manure.
  • From 1964 to 2008, agricultural fertilizer use increased by 25%.

Urban sources

  • About 10% of the nutrients flowing from the Gulf of Mexico come from urban stormwater and wastewater/sewage treatment plants.


  • In 2012, 592 industrial facilities released 100,000 tons of nitrate compounds, equal to 3,000 full railroad cars.

Impacts on the nation

Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most serious water pollution issues today. Limiting nutrient pollution will protect people’s health, support the economy, and keep America’s waters safe for swimming and fishing.