Water pollution from agriculture is costing billions of dollars a year in developed countries and is set to rise in China and India as farmers race to increase food production, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.
“Pollution from farm pesticides and fertilizers is often diffuse, making it hard to pin down exactly where it’s coming from,” Kevin Parris, author of a report by the Paris-based organization, said in an interview in Marseille. “In some big agricultural countries in Europe, like parts of France, Spain and the U.K., the situation is deteriorating.”
In some regions of China, pollution of waterways from agriculture may already have reached a level that may cause health problems in humans, he said.
The OECD report is part of a series of studies published this week to coincide with the World Water Forum in Marseille. Ministers, industry representatives and non-government organizations are discussing resource management, waste, health risks and climate change at the meeting. Pollution from farming is gaining prominence as the global population increases, raising demand for food and putting strain on water resources.
Fertilizers such as nitrates and phosphates as well as pesticides that run off farms can contaminate drinking water, harm aquatic life and result in eutrophication, or a proliferation of plants that reduces oxygen content in water and eliminates other sea life, according to the study.