The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is holding its 27th annual water quality workshop at Boise State this week. Dan Wise is with the U.S. Geological Survey in Oregon, and Wednesday he’s presenting his findings from a regional study on phosphorus in streams.
Here’s a quick high school science refresher: Phosphorus is a chemical element and is essential for life. It’s in chemical fertilizer, as well as in animal and human waste. But there’s a delicate balance – too much phosphorus can cause problems in waterways with too much plant growth.
“If there’s too many plants they can cause the pH levels to go quite high or the dissolved oxygen levels to go quite low, which adversely affects aquatic life like salmon for example.”
In Idaho, phosphorus levels are higher in dense forest land in the north, as well as in agricultural areas of the south central part of the state. Wise says he was most surprised to learn that the natural weathering of rocks is a telltale sign of high phosphorus content.
He plans to inform Idaho regulators about the issues, and how his study may apply to the Gem State.
Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
Copyright 2017 Boise State Public Radio