Hidden beneath the varied landscapes of Missouri is one of the state's most treasured and important natural resources. Groundwater is a main source of drinking water for most Missourians and provides much of the water used to irrigate crops. Groundwater could be contaminated with high nitrate concentrations from agriculture and, to a lesser extent, failing septic systems. Nitrate levels are higher in groundwater under agricultural land than in water below urban areas.
Groundwater contamination and shrinking water levels in the ground can affect bodies of water on the surface. Groundwater feeds surface waters and helps maintain water levels during droughts. If groundwater is being used up and the water level in a stream goes down as a result, the pollutants in the stream will be concentrated, doing greater environmental damage.
Current regulations and voluntary best management practices will not be sufficient to maintain healthy groundwater and shield contaminated wells and aquifers from additional pollution. Even if all existing laws were followed to the letter, groundwater would still be subject to unacceptable levels of nutrients and other contaminants. Targeted action will be required to cut off unregulated sources of pollution.