Dead Zones in Our Waterways

Before I go into this post….

I was searching for a support photo for this post, and the NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association) is generous in allowing photo use with credit, so I typed in the familiar address of but.. ‘”hello? anyone there?” Nope, they are on shutdown. Glad I’m resourceful…. I found it ‘elsewhere’….

Credit NOAA

A friend recently asked me, “What are dead zones”?

Dead zones are found near coastlines, in both large lakes and oceans where the oxygen levels are very low (hypoxic), and aquatic life suffers or doesn’t survive at all.

Global Environmental Outlook Yearbook reported 146 dead zone areas in the world in 2003, and a recount in 2008 revealed 405. One of the most infamous is an 8,543 Sq mile area where the Mississippi dumps into the Gulf of Mexico.  Others appear in Chesapeake Bay, on the coastline from California to Washington, and in Kattegat (strait) at the mouth of the Baltic Sea, to name a few.

One of the causes linked with dead zones is a rise in chemical nutrients from fertilizers called “eutrophication”. Basically, erosion of all the chemicals used in farming run into local rivers, then flow to larger rivers, to eventually flow into the ocean. Another cause is all the human and animal shit we like to make disappear in the waterways. Other links are soil erosion, animal wastes, and sewage.

There are many effects dead zones have on the aquatic life of the water. Nitrogen and Phosphorous cause algae to grow rapidly, block sunlight from penetrating the water and alter the food chain. Another problem is that it affects reproductive organs of fish, causing low reproductive rates.

There is some dim hope for the reduction of dead zones in our waters. During the collapse of the USSR around 1991 – 2001, the dead zone in the Black Sea almost disappeared completely. Environmentalists claimed it was because the cost of fertilizer was too high for the local area to afford it, so it wasn’t used. As prices became lower, and more farmers were able to buy again, the dead zone returned.

How do we stop these dead zones from forming? Aside from the obvious, stop over-fertilizing… Two other possible cures would be to restore wetlands in the coastline areas to act as a filter for the contaminants, and another method would be to add Aluminum Sulfite to zone to reduce the Phosphates.

© Ilex Farrell ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

10 thoughts on “Dead Zones in Our Waterways

    • I TOOO-tally understand!! I don’t take it personally. =-)
      It is a huge problem. I see it everyday at work, the ‘Jones’ needing to have emerald green lawns via over fertilizing, pesticide spray & watering et all.
      There’s also many municipalities (like Chicago) that pump its ‘treated’ sewer H2O into nearby waterways (Lake Michigan). Oddly, that is where most of the suburbs GET their H2O! Gaaa! The madness!! =-O


  1. A most thoughtful post and this is worryingly, a global problem. Hopefully, eventually the politicians will see the light and will support a movement towards more non-chemical farming practices or at least attempt to lessen the impact on the wider environment. Only when the conglomerates lack the backing of politicians and the general public will this environmental destruction start to fade away. The wildlife is already fading away, let us hope it’s not the human race next!


  2. And then there’s this comment containing a link to a petition, which I found over at LinkedIn, you may wish to participate?

    The “Nobel” of food development is awarded to… to biocidal maniacs.
    Please sign and share to protest this obscenity.

    Tell the World Food Prize Foundation not to reward Monsanto and bee-killer Syngenta’s outrageous practices.


  3. Pingback: There’s no O in Ohio’s H2O!! | Midwestern Plants

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