The Secret Global Sewer System

The Secret Global Sewer System


Hi, this is Alex from MinuteEarth. Farmers
are obsessed with water. It makes sense – their livelihoods depend on crops that will die
without enough water. So lots of farmers buy expensive equipment to pump tons of water
to their fields. In fact, of all the water humans use, 70% is for agriculture. But here’s
an even crazier thing – lots of farmers also spend tons of effort and tons of money de-watering
their fields. That’s because too much water is also deadly
for crops. All plant cells need oxygen to function: the cells above the ground take
it from photosynthesis or from the air around, and the cells underground take it from tiny
air pockets in the soil. But if the soil is too wet for too long, the roots can literally
drown, killing the entire plant. Plus, wet fields cause tractors to get stuck and to
compact the soil, which reduces both the amount of air in the soil and the space for roots
to grow. To save their crops from these problems, farmers
around the world have dug ditches and installed special underground pipes to drain excess
water away. As a result, the soil has enough space in it for roots to grow and enough air
for roots to breathe; crops survive, tractors don’t get stuck and overall productivity
increases. However, draining water away more quickly
means that it reaches nearby streams and rivers more quickly, where it can speed up the flow
and contribute to floods. And floods can damage infrastructure and erode river banks and river
bottoms, creating deep channels and muddying the water downstream. Plus, the water coming
from the fields can carry chemicals – from fertilizer and pesticides – which end up polluting
rivers, lakes and eventually, oceans. These problems caused by drainage can be mitigated
somewhat by applying fertilizer and pesticides precisely where and when the crops need them.
We can also send the water through trenches filled with wood chips or buffers of native
plants, both of which can filter out some of the chemicals before the water flows into
a nearby stream. And we can also retrofit the underground pipes to slow down the flow
of water when it’s ok to have a wet field, like when we’re not growing crops. But there is another huge problem with drainage:
it’s helped us turn wetlands into farms. Wetlands are incredibly valuable, because in addition
to providing habitat for fish, birds, and other creatures, they also act like giant
sponges that prevent floods and filter the water – making it cleaner for everyone downstream. In the last 200 years, over half – and maybe
even over ¾ – of the world’s wetlands have disappeared and been replaced mostly with
farmland. So, thanks to drainage we get new and more
productive farmland, which helps us grow lots of extra crops. But we also lose wetlands
and gain some new problems. And unfortunately, gaining the benefits without
any of the downsides may be a pipe dream. This video was sponsored by the University
of Minnesota, where students, faculty and staff across all fields of study are working
to solve the Grand Challenges facing society. One of these challenges is Assuring Clean
Water and Sustainable Ecosystems, and part of the solution is to reduce the pollution
from agricultural runoff. Professor Jacques Finlay and post-doc Christy Dolph in the College
of Biological Sciences, along with collaborators, have found that if we restored wetlands in
strategic locations where they could intercept lots of water, they’d be three times more
effective at removing pollution than wetlands restored elsewhere. Professor Michael Sadowsky
in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate is identifying the bacteria that remove chemicals
from water sent through woodchip trenches. And Adjunct Professor Heidi Peterson in the
Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering is collaborating on a project to filter and
retain drainage water using a wetland at the edge of a field. Thanks, University of Minnesota!

Related Posts

100 thoughts on “The Secret Global Sewer System

  1. Tile actually helps control floods by letting the water out slowly… without tile the water in our fields has only one way to leave via the surface carrying pesticides, fertilizer, and soil particles (which I do not want since I spend money on these items)… so by placing tile in the ground, we lower the water table, but also create a place for water to go when we get rain, and when the soil profile get too full its released through the tile slowly… not causing floods as you portray!

  2. I guarantee you cannot come up with a solution that doesn't bring its own hidden problems down the road. Murphy's Law will always win.

  3. My family owns a small patch of wetland. One other benefit that you missed about them is that there a fun place for your cabin

  4. Right now I'm researching a way to reduce the amount of crop protection compounds in the wastewater coming of flower bulb farms.

  5. More farms for more food for more people for more profit…And when "more" become "too many" we are left with nothing but problems. And I think it's already way too many.

  6. Plant: wants water
    Human: gives plant water
    Plant: wants more
    Human: gives more
    Plant: that was too much now I'm going die
    Human: holy shit did that plant just talk

  7. Also most of plant agriculture is to feed lifestock. If you consume animals products you're indirectly and inefficiently consuming plants.

  8. I love these little segments. I hope that one day we can learn to work with nature instead of on better ways to conquer it.

  9. Nice pun at the end.
    We have found that the water is less clear near countries with farming.
    Countries with no farming have the clearest coastal waters!

  10. I’m an Environmental Scientist, GIS, and Climatology major at UMN. I’m proud to hear you guys give us a shout out. I’m currently working at one of the labs on campus and we are measuring the water capacity of different bryophytes and their relationship with different forest biomes in Minnesota. We are trying to get as much data as possible to try and educate lawmakers and the public about the value of these ecosystems and their huge benefits to our way of life.

  11. I'd like to say something about developments about urban farming and other such low-space agriculture, but I don't think it's far enough along yet, and I don't know much about it…

  12. Maybe don’t feed 90% of crops to animals so we wouldn’t have this problem? Simple solution, dammit.

  13. Yeah…. I’d rather have the sun, burn us all the minute we realise that our Earth is 5 years close to dying, that way the Earth won’t have to suffer.

    Oh and also apparently Trump made hunting bears/foxes (I can’t remember which, might be both though) legal, even though we all know we’re killing them off.

  14. LOL, few things can prevent destruction of wetlands and pumping contaminated water to the river banks.
    Modern farmers really suck. There is three ways that they should do to get perfect crops:
    1. Mix the soil with charcoal in 1 to 6 to get " terra preta "
    (that also eliminate need for fertilizers, wood ash is recommended)
    2. Isolate the bottom of the soil by using airpermable waterproof sand
    (that will also protect the crop from underground surge)
    3. In very dry areas/deserts – use drop irrigation – permaculture.

    Link to first:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgK5DWCMj8A
    link to second:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2DLQw1K9Ms

  15. Awesome, how we create an endless road of problems, solutions and new problems 😀 Not enough water? More water for money! To much water? Less free water for money!

  16. Please. Can we stop the dissing of farmers? Please! Farming is like any other business – to make a profit, they need to minimize costs. farmers don't spray fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides willy nilly because it wastes money. they don't water more than the absolutely need to because it wastes money. They don't let water drain away because it wastes money. If farmers acted the way uninformed youtoobers say they do, the farmers would all have been out of business years ago, and the "lower the population" folks would already have their wish.
    Now, agriculture corporations are a whole nother thing, to be sure. But Monsanto is not farmers. Farmers are victims of Monsanto as much as the rest of us are.

  17. My favorite part of educational vidoes is knowing that it doesnt matter what the people do its not going to change a thing because that is i the hands of bussines and goverments and they only care about profits

  18. I love watching environmentalists talk about problems existing for the sole purpose of showing how much they care, discussing solutions is not required

  19. Okay but you didnt say that reducing/eliminating meat intake lowers the area that crops need to be grown in therefore allowing wetlands to recover

  20. No till with covercrops has added nutrients and organic matter to farmland which has improved aeration and water storage capacity. Look into regenerative agriculture.

  21. This is a very poor attempt at sounding like someone knows what they are talking about. This CAN lead to that, which MAY do this…then we give un attributed "facts" with an apparent 25-30% margin of error??? Do us a favor, and research carefully, report responsibly, and know your facts before making vague imprecise arguments. Also I think we can all agree, we like to eat.

  22. Why are cats scared of cucumbers do you have a minute and I love your videos I’m in love with thanks please keep on making them

  23. Constantly evacuating rain quickly from large expanses of land also must change the balance of the underground water table below. I don't think we fully understand this and may be in for some large surprising problems in the future

  24. That's a grotesque amount of land! 100 000 km2 is a hundred thousand million of square meters, or 100 billion m2, for you guys on the other side of the pond, that's 1 076 391 041 671 square feet!

  25. Except all of these measures have taken into account already. Wier wall storm structures, retention ponds, & isolation ponds are already standard procedure today. Worthless virtue signaling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *