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 *Source Water Protection

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This research project and preparation of this report was funded by the Awwa Research Foundation (AwwaRF) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). 

Animal feeding operations (AFOs) for beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, chickens, turkeys, and many other species are located throughout the United States to meet the demand for meat and other animal-related products. Byproducts of animal production include manure (feces and urine), animal parts, dead animals, feed lot runoff, excess feed, and others. The growing trend towards large farms that concentrate increasing numbers of animals into smaller areas has magnified waste handling difficulties and increased the potential for releases of excess animal feed, waste, or byproducts into the environment. The larger of these farms are defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). USEPA claims that improperly managed manure from these operations "has caused serious acute and chronic water quality problems" (USEPA, 2003a).

Drinking water utilities may be adversely affected by impairments in source water quality due to contaminants originating at AFOs. Source water contamination from AFO wastes can occur because of normal operations and substandard practices, nutrient-excessive land application of manure, and also major acute impacts from significant incidents such as breaches of large liquid manure lagoons. For surface waters, the most common problems for water suppliers associated with AFO wastes in their source water area are excessive nutrients (primarily phosphorus and nitrogen) causing eutrophication and resulting increases in organic matter and taste and odor, as well as the presence of microbial pathogens such as Cryptosporidium. For groundwater supplies, nitrate and pathogens have generally caused the most problems. Other impacts related to AFOs can include salts, organic matter, solids, and volatile/odorous compounds. To a lesser extent, animal wastes may also be a source of trace elements, antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides. Furthermore, AFOs may also have waste containing soaps, surfactants, acids, alkalines, and disinfectants used for cleaning, health maintenance, and food safety.

When the final report is available, it can be ordered from the link to the project profile seen on the AwwaRF project snapshot,