Californians living in the state’s agricultural regions are at risk of drinking water contaminated with harmful levels of nitrates, according to a new UC Davis report. Linked with thyroid illnesses and some cancers, nitrate contamination largely comes from chemical fertilizer and animal manure. We discuss the extent and cost of the problem, as well as potential solutions.

Thomas Harter, UC Davis groundwater hydrologist and the study's lead author
Sasha Khokha, Central Valley bureau chief for KQED News
Maria Herrera, community outreach coordinator for the Community Water Center
Danny Merkley, water resources director for the California Farm Bureau Federation
Jessica Sanchez, a young woman expecting her first child whose water is nitrate-contaminated

  • aarti p

    Would Reverse Osmosis help in eleminating the nitrate from home drinking water?

    • SC

      Yes but 1/3 to 1/2 of the make up water must be discharged as waste. It’s best to check the California State Water Treatment Equipment listings and the NSF listing information for the specific water treatment unit that you are looking at to make sure that nitrates can be removed by that unit.

  • sniperboy

    As a former California farmer, I think you should interview more farmers on this issue. Let me tell you from experience, chemical fertilizers are expenses. Since most farmers’ profit margins are very slim, they do not use more fertilizers than needed. Why is taxing everything in California always seen as the solution?  I think we need to find solutions to help farmers to use less fertilizers like more efficient farming methods or planting cash crops that require less fertilizers. Don’t forget that homeowners dumping fertilizers on their lawns and over watering is also a big source of nitrates. I don’t think that farmers should get all the blame.

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