This lesson explores nutrients - a major type of nonpoint source pollution affecting the Lower Grand River Watershed. In this lesson you will explore the types and sources of nutrients, visualize the effects of nutrients on plant growth, and simulate a task force to address nutrient issues.
Students answer these essential questions in the context of the Lower Grand River Watershed: What are nutrients? What are the sources and effects of nutrients? How can we reduce the amount of nutrients in a stream or river?
Nutrient pollution is one of the top causes of water quality impairment in our nation's surface waters. In a March 16, 2011 memo, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated its commitment to working with states and other stakeholders to accelerate the reduction of nutrient inputs to our nation's waters. Working in partnership with the EPA, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) prepared steps for Michigan to protect its surface waters from excessive nutrient pollution – specifically nitrogen and phosphorus. The MDEQ works to reduce nutrient loads and achieve water quality restoration and protection goals through a combination of point source and nonpoint source pollution reduction activities
Nitrogen and phosphorus are natural and necessary components of aquatic ecosystems. These nutrients support the growth of algae and aquatic plants, which provide food and habitat for fish, shellfish, and smaller organisms that live in water. But when too much nitrogen and phosphorus enter the environment – usually from a wide range of human activities – the natural ecosystem is disrupted and the water quality can become impaired.
The primary sources of excess nutrients from human activities are:
•In and Around the Home
For more detailed background information and references, click on Lesson 4: Managing Excess Nutrients, in the For Teachers section below.
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The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Program assists numerous non-profit entities and other local, state, and federal partners to reduce nonpoint source pollution (NPS) statewide. NPS pollution comes from all over the watershed – anywhere rain falls. There is no specific source like a pipe or smoke stack. As such, the basis for this program is watershed management.
The Lower Grand River Watershed Management Plan (LGRWMP) is a document developed to provide a description of the watershed, identification of impairments, and goals and objectives for management and improvement of the watershed. The WMP’s Information and Education (I&E) Strategy calls for educating stakeholders about the watershed and the impacts that stakeholders have on the watershed. The strategy has three steps: (1) awareness, (2) education, and (3) action.
With funding from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Nonpoint Source Program, four lessons that draw upon information from the Lower Grand River Watershed Management Plan (WMP) have been developed for teachers. The purpose of these lessons is to further the I&E objectives that reach students as outlined in the WMP.
The three main nonpoint source pollutants of concern in the Lower Grand River Watershed Management Plan include sediment, pathogens, and nutrients. The lesson titles, which reflect this, are: