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As much as 10 percent of people living in rural parts of California may be drinking water polluted with nitrates, according to a new study from UC Davis, and the problem will likely intensify in the future.
The report outlines the level of nitrate contamination in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley, where 2.6 million people live.
The main source of the pollution? Chemical fertilizers and livestock manure.
While the farming industry has longed argued that it is not the sole cause of the contamination, the study says otherwise. In fact, more than 90 percent of the nitrates come from agriculture.
“I think it’s clear that to address this problem, we need agriculture to lead the way,” an executive at a water non-profit told California Watch.
It's a serious problem with no simple solution. High nitrate levels have been linked to cancer, infant death and reproductive disorders. And fixing the drinking water could cost as between $20 million and $35 million per year for decades, the report determined.
Both the study and the committee’s recommendations will be presented to the water board later this year.