Nutrient Pollution Impact


Nutrient pollution is when too many nutrients build up in the water, causing algae to grow quickly. If the water has too much phosphorus and nitrogen, this type of pollution is more likely to happen.


A nutrient is any chemical substance that helps living things grow and get food. A plant or animal must get enough nutrients to stay alive and be well.

There are a lot of important plant nutrients, but nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are the two that are most important.

Nitrogen and phosphorus can both make the water more fertile.  Basically, this means that things will have an easier time growing the water. This, in turn, will cause a lot of algae to grow and algae can cause harm.

nutrient pollution description


Eutrophication is when nutrients build up over time in water bodies. It is the most common cause of eutrophication in the United States and around the world. It is caused by a lot of different things. Eutrophication can be broken down into two main types based on the source of pollution:

Cultural Eutrophication

  • This type of eutrophication is the most common one. It happens because of what people do. People can pollute water intentionally or unintentionally by putting harmful substances into water bodies.
  • Cultural eutrophication happens in both saltwater and freshwater. Basically, all oceans, rivers, ponds, lakes, and more are at risk.
  • Culturalal eutrophication happens quicker than the other kind. The amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water may also change the length of time it takes to harm water supplies. 

Natural Eutrophication

  • Natural Eutrophication is slower than eutrophication.
  • This type of eutrophication happens when the levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in water bodies rise over time. These elements can be found in water when minerals and rocks are broken down. The wind and the rain are what causes the release of phosphorus and nitrogen.
  • Natural materials from land that floods pick up also end up in rivers and other bodies of water. Then as these materials break down, they give off nutrients into the water.
nutrient pollution causes


Nitrogen and phosphorus are found in water bodies naturally. However, some human activities make them more likely to build up in the world’s oceans, lakes, and rivers. (Research from United States Environmental Agency)

  1. Sewage Dumping

  • Wastewater from homes and businesses has a lot of phosphorus and nitrogen in it.
  • A lot of nutrients flow into water bodies when people flush uncleaned sewage into them.
  • Sewage water increases the amount of nitrogen in the water. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) happen often when people or companies dump sewage into the water.
  1. Agricultural Practices

  • Most of the world’s nutrient pollution comes from the use of chemical fertilizers. Nitrogen comes in the form of nitrate, which farmers use to help crops grow.
  • Heavy rains wash away too much nitrogen, so it ends up in the water. Rivers and lakes near farms are the worst hit.
  • Animal manure has both phosphorus and nitrogen in it. Pollution of water bodies can happen if animal waste isn’t properly taken care of.
  1. Fossil Fuel Combustion

  • Because fossil fuels are burned, they are a big contributor to nutrient pollution in the world today.
  • Fossil fuels have a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus in them. When people burn fossil fuels, there are a lot of nitrogen oxides and phosphorus that get into the air.
  • Power plants, cars, and factories use a lot of fossil fuels each year to make electricity. This has a big impact on air and water pollution.
  1. Stormwater Runoffs

  • Earth’s atmosphere is made up of about 78 percent nitrogen. As a result, it is the most common element. Overall nitrogen is very easy to get. 
  • People who live near bodies of water that get a lot of rain might see nitrogen and phosphorus build-up.
  • Over time, stormwater runoffs pollute the water with a lot of nutrients.
  1. Detergents

  • Phosphate-based detergents increase the level of phosphorus in the water. Some detergents also have nitrates in them.
  • Most detergents are easy to dissolve in water. When people use or throw these cleaning compounds away in the wrong way, they pollute the water with nutrients.
  • Eutrophication takes months or even years to happen in nutrient-polluted water.
nutrient pollution consequences


Too much phosphorus and nitrogen in the air and water harm the world around us. Nitrogen pollution also hurts people’s health.

  1. Effects of Nutrient Pollution on the Environment

  • Nutrient pollution causes a lot of problems for the environment. It is especially bad for freshwater bodies, causing huge algal blooms. The ocean, too, is affected.
  • Algal blooms make the water less oxygen-rich. This kills fish and other animals in the water. Also, nitrogen pollution makes water less clean.
  • Algae stop sunlight from getting into the water. So, aquatic plants can’t make their food through photosynthesis, so they will die. As a result, marine biomes will also die.
  • Nitrogen oxides in the air mix with rain to make acid rain. Acid rain not only destroys aquatic environments but also pollutes the soil as well.
  1. Nutrient Pollution Effects on Human Health

A lot of things happen when people are exposed to harmful algal blooms (HABs), like:

  • Nutrient-polluted water causes a wide range of skin diseases. People who come into contact with algae blooms may get rashes on their skin and other things.
  • Eutrophication of water sources leads to the spread of diseases in the digestive tract. This will make people sick if someone drinks the water.
  • Increased nitrogen in the air causes serious respiratory problems for both children and adults.
nutrient pollution solutions



There are many ways to cut down on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. (Research from Science Direct)

Proper Use of Fertilizers

  • One of the main causes of nutrient pollution is runoff from farming. People who grow crops can keep this from happening by using less fertilizer.
  • Animal waste should be thrown away in the right way. This will keep phosphorus and nitrogen from getting into the water nearby, which will help keep the water clean.

Reducing Emissions

  • Energy from renewable sources, like wind and solar power are better than fossil fuels. It’s a good idea for people to switch to electric cars because they do not give off harmful gasses.

Proper Sewage Management

  • People must make sure their sewage is properly cleaned before it’s returned to the environment


There are many negative effects of nutrient pollution, which can harm the environment, water bodies, aquatic life, and people. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) release toxins that can have a big impact on your health. We can keep waterways clean by cutting down on nutrient pollution. The best way to do this is to cut back on the use of phosphorus and nitrogen-based fertilizers.

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