Fighting for Clean Water

When toxins from algal blooms contaminated Toledo, Ohio’s water supply in 2014, residents found themselves in the midst of a drinking water crisis. Spanning from Lake Erie to Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, algal blooms caused in part by fertilizer runoff from lawns and farms are becoming a critical threat to freshwater resources.

At the Environmental Change Initiative, Professor Jennifer Tank is conducting research to help farmers across the country make positive changes to solve this widespread challenge. As the Galla Professor of Biological Sciences, she is studying the benefits of farming techniques designed to keep nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus on fields, where farmers need them. Her research combines the wide-scale planting of cover crops in winter with innovative drainage strategies that can reduce fertilizer runoff to streams and rivers. By working closely with farmers using these two techniques, Tank’s findings have shown that protecting freshwater does not need to come at a cost to agricultural production.

Partnering with the US Department of Agriculture, The Nature Conservancy, The Walton Family Foundation, and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Tank’s research has the potential to find water quality solutions that are a win-win for both farmers and the environment.

Learn more about Notre Dame's Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility (ND-LEEF).