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Earth Environmental Education Karst and NPS


The Connection between Karst Topography and Nonpoint Source Pollution

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution has been identified as a threat to water supplies all over the nation. 

Where nonpoint source pollution combines locally with an area of karst topography, however, the threat is multiplied many times. Here in the Ozarks we live in such an area.

What is karst topography?

Please don't pour your oil on the ground. 
It pollutes our groundwater!
Drawing by Austin, Ava Elementary School

Groundwater in karst areas is easily contaminated because water on the surface travels rapidly into underground aquifers, where it may be carried long distances. 

Karst: The Movie
Karst Movie
Flash presentation on karst features and NPS pollution.

Because of this, what people do on the surface can have a devastating effect on the underground environment, including caves and cave-dwelling animals such as bats. 

Unfortunately, people are the primary source of nonpoint source pollution. A study in Indiana found that "practically all users of groundwater are also its potential polluters."

What is nonpoint source pollution?

Nonpoint source pollution can come from nearly anywhere, and almost everywhere. Where non-point source pollution occurs, there is no one to point fingers at. The polluter could be anyone, or several someones. 

When the West Plains sewage lagoon collapsed in the 1970s due to a sinkhole opening up in the bottom of it, wells were polluted as far as 30 miles away. That pollution was easily traced to its source. 

However, tracing a single source of nonpoint source pollution, such as that created by a single cow, or one leaking septic system, is nearly impossible.

What can we do about it?

Education is the key. The more we know, the better choices we can make. The first step in preventing pollution begins with each of us, and the decisions we make about the products we buy, use, and discard. 

Are you a polluter? Probably. 

Can you do something about nonpoint source pollution? Yes! 

You can do your part by making better choices, and by making sure your friends understand the consequences of their choices. 

The Karst Waters Institute: http://www.karstwaters.org
West Plains Daily Quill, "Karst in the Watershed," August/September 1998, by Denise Henderson Vaughn.