Clean water and food largely due to Phosphorus, a dwindling resource

Fish Kill in Louisiana

In 2010, in the Bayou Chaland area of Louisiana, a massive fish kill was discovered. Scientists say it was a combination of oxygen-deprived water due to agricultural runoff, coupled with the deadly Gulf oil spill.
Photo by: P.J. Hahn, Plaquemines Parish (Source)

As much as I love food and water, I didn’t realize how much is due to phosphorus, a naturally occurring chemical compound “formed millions of years ago from old coral reefs and sedimentary deposits.” This chemical is important for our survival because “the Earth’s current geological phosphorus supplies are intensively mined to produce modern fertilizers” (Source).

And these supplies of phosphorus are getting harder to find and mine.

Population increases combined with agricultural advances puts added pressure on this essential chemical. “Today, there are a few U.S. and international phosphorus mines, but the largest deposits are located in the conflicted African country of Morocco. That makes accessing future phosphorus supplies uncertain” (Source).

While runoff from industrialized nations’ farms pollutes nearby waters, developing countries’ farmers can’t afford the skyrocketing phosphorus prices to help support their crops.

Read more on ASU News.

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