Efforts to reduce nutrient pollution to waterways have often been compared to a diet. That is, nutrients in our waterways such as nitrogen and phosphorus are like calories for humans, they become a problem when their intake is excessive. Signs and symptoms of excess nutrients include algae blooms and fish kills.
What are ways for putting our lakes and estuaries on a nutrient diet? The NC Division of Water Resources was criticized recently for not considering land preservation as a practice that reduces nutrients. North Carolina certainly has its share of beautiful landscapes worth preservation but does the act of protecting existing forests and wetlands lower nutrient levels in eutrophic waters?
Preservation proponents argue that the merits of protecting lands justify rewarding the activity with clean-up credit. Those responsible with developing a clean-up plan, however, want activities that are proven to reduce runoff. They prefer activities like improved waste water treatment, better filtering of stormwater runoff, and reducing the amount of fertilizers and manure that washes into creeks and streams.
Do many of our waterways need to go on a nutrient diet? Without question. Is preservation part of that diet? It certainly promotes healthier watersheds but it should not be the cornerstone of a nutrient reduction diet.