Snake River IS Idaho’s New Sewer System
The Snake River provides drinking water for more than 300,000 Idahoans. The water is obviously cleaned and purified but there are certain standards and criteria this water needs to hit so that purification process is possible and we're getting very close to that not happening.
So what's the problem? Why is not safe to swim or eat fish out of parts of the Snake River anymore and why can't we turn it into drinking water? Our water is being contaminated and experts are saying that contamination is directly linked to human activity. Specifically, the rapid growth of Idaho's dairy industry.
More than 400,000 cows eat, sleep, and YES, defecate near the Snake River. That fecal matter adds up to the same amount as 12 million human beings. I took the liberty of researching exactly how much POOP that really is. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Services, your average dairy cow produces 80 pounds of manure a day. Let's add that up. 80 x 400,000 = 32,000,000. That's 32 MILLION pounds of POOP every day. Whoah!
A lot of this is turned into fertilizer and used on crops but there aren't enough crops to take in that much fertilizer. So where does it go? It ends up in the ground which eventually drains into the river.
This is a problem that will continue to grow as Idaho continues to bring in more people. The Idaho Conservation League is suggesting a combination of stricter state regulation of fertilizer and animal manure application and an industry-wide implementation of best management practices such as cover crops, residue management, and no-till planting.