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Water Quality

Water quality — the suitability of water to be used to irrigate and tend animals — is very important in agriculture.

On this page, find additional water quality information, including legal information, data and tools used for water quality assessment, and links to USDA research units containing relevant videos and scientific research related to water quality.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) works with agricultural producers to implement best management practices that minimize water quality and water quantity — the availability or use of water — issues. A clean and plentiful water supply is essential for productive agriculture to supply the public with adequate food and fiber. But agriculture, like other land uses, can sometimes negatively affect water quality.

Common causes of poor water quality:

  • Soil erosion
  • Manure runoff
  • Over-application of nitrogen fertilizer
  • Pollutants
  • Excess phosphorus

These sources can deliver pollution to streams, rivers, and lakes, and may contaminate groundwater with nitrate. They can also harm drinking water supplies, aquatic ecosystems, and the recreational uses of water bodies.

Selected Resources

External links relevent to agricultural water quality
Important regulations and tools

Irrigation Techniques

Field irrigation

Irrigation, or water management, is the process of determining and controlling the volume, frequency and application rate of irrigation water in a planned, efficient manner.


Sweet potatoes in a field

Soil is a fundamental component of agriculture and life, and therefore one of our most important natural resources.

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