Nutrients & Water Quality
Katie McKibben, Ohio EPA
Like the human body, water bodies require nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, to be healthy. However, too many nutrients can be harmful. Many of our nation’s waters, including streams, rivers, wetlands, estuaries, and coastal waters, are affected by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The effect of excess nutrients in a given water body depends on its ecoregion and the sources of the nutrients.
High levels of nutrients in waters can produce harmful algal blooms. In turn, these blooms can produce “dead zones” in water bodies where dissolved oxygen levels are so low that most aquatic life cannot survive. This condidtion in water bodies is referred to as hypoxia. Some algal blooms contain Microcystis which can produce a toxic, Microcystin, that can affect human and animal health.