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Controlled Environment Agriculture Smart Farming

Water Pollution Increases Costs For CEA Growers

Water pollution and its impact on CEA

According to a recent report, California ranks as the fifth-most polluted state in the United States regarding water quality. In addition, the report analyzed rivers and streams across all 50 states and found that nearly half of them fail to meet quality drinking, swimming, and fishing standards. This highlights the need for increased efforts to protect water resources, particularly in California, where the situation is particularly dire.

The report indicates that California’s waterways are contaminated, with over 37,000 miles of waterways found to be polluted. This has led to the state’s drinking water being ranked as the worst in the country and the third-worst in fishing. This is alarming, considering that water is a critical resource for human consumption, agriculture, and industry.

One of the consequences of contaminated water is its negative impact on the quality and safety of crops for CEA and ‘traditional’ growers. For example, if the water used to irrigate fresh produce contains ammonia and other chemicals, it can lead to food safety concerns. This is particularly concerning for California, one of the country’s largest producers of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Water pollution can also be a significant cause of foodborne illness outbreaks, as seen in the recent Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak between June and August 2021. This incident was the FDA’s first domestic investigation of a foodborne illness outbreak associated with leafy greens grown in a Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) operation. It highlights the need for increased efforts to ensure the safety of fresh produce.

Producers of fresh produce in greenhouses are particularly vulnerable to the impact of contaminated water. CEA relies heavily on the water as a critical input for plant growth, and contaminated water can affect crop yield, quality, and safety. Additionally, using high-quality water sources can increase the cost of production, especially in areas with limited access to clean water. This underscores the importance of protecting water resources and ensuring they remain clean and safe for all.

Read the rest in our latest editorial here.

Photo by Jong Marshes on Unsplash

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