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May 11, 2013

Wetlands and the Quality of Drinking Water

Alakai Wilderness Preserve
 Wetlands improve water quality in nearby rivers and streams, and thus have considerable value as filters for future drinking water. When water enters a wetland, it slows down and moves around wetland plants. Much of the suspended sediment drops out and settles to the wetland floor. Plant roots and microorganisms on plant stems and in the soil absorb excess nutrients in the water from fertilizers, manure, leaking septic tanks and municipal sewage. While a certain level of nutrients is necessary in water ecosystems, excess nutrients can cause algae growth that's harmful to fish and other aquatic life. A wetland's natural filtration process can remove excess nutrients before water leaves a wetland, making it healthier for drinking, swimming and supporting plants and animals. For example, a single swamp removes a quantity of pollutants from the watershed equivalent to that which would be removed by a $5 million treatment plant.
"When the well's dry, we know the worth of water."

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