Most of China’s surface waters are undergoing anthropogenic eutrophication, mainly due to leaching of phosphorus (P) from both sewage and agriculture. This is causing quality deterioration in their scarce water resources. The problem has been acknowledged by Chinese authorities and actions sought implemented, though expected ameliorations are on hold.
This interdisciplinary study focuses on actions taken by farmers adjacent to Yuqiao reservoir; the raw water source for five million people in Tianjin City. As is often the case, these farmers apply excessive amounts of fertilisers. The leaching of P is aggravated by poor P sorption capacity of the soils and a practically impermeable clay layer below a shallow ploughing layer. During heavy rainfalls the soils become saturated, causing P to be flushed out through shallow-water flow paths. A low content of organic matter in the soils makes things worse.
This study documents how farmers are taking action to improve crop yield, the environment, and health issues. Farmers taking more action than others consider themselves as having good farming competence, they are usually local members of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), and have a relatively low family income. The study concludes with suggested policy measures. The main recommendation is to collect household sewage and most of their manure and use it as feedstock for large-scale biogas reactors, combined with returning the residual organic matter to the soil. Cooperating with well-respected farmers and drawing on local CPC members’ willingness to take action may facilitate a successful implementation of the above measures.
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