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Agricultural runoff contains contaminants - such as animal feces, and chemicals like phosphorous etc present in fertilizers. These contaminants will spoil fresh water - causing sickness if it's drunk.


"Freshwater" is usually defined as having low concentrations of dissolved salts and other soluble solids. Agricultural runoff tends to have picked up a lot of dissolved solids - both from human sources and from having been run through the soils where it dissolves the salts. As a result it MAY no longer really qualify as "freshwater" - being more accurately described as "brackish water" or close to it. As such it can become toxic to plant and animal life or have substances that greatly promote the growth of problem organisms like algae and slime. The BOD (biological oxygen demand) of runoff can make it so low in oxygen that it will kill fish and other aquatic organisms. When mixed with fresh water, runoff can degrade the quality of the water and severely disrupt ecosystems relying on fresh water.

Please take note of the caveats; not all agricultural runoff causes such severe problems - but it does have the potential to and in many cases DOES cause severe problems

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Q: How is agricultural runoff harmful to places were freshwater is found?
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