Okefenokee Swamp | Blackwater, National Geographic Magazine: Dairy Farm Near Suwannee River

Two large ponds filled with cows in a birds-eye view.

Dairy cows cool off and drink in ponds that share a common aquifer to the springs that feed the Suwannee River. Excess nitrate-nitrogen leached primarily from agricultural fertilizers and livestock is the major pollutant affecting ground water and springs in the Suwannee River watershed.

According to research by the University of Florida, there are 40 dairies with more than 25,000 animals and 130 poultry operations with more than 38 million birds in the Middle Suwannee River Basin.

In 1999, concerns about nitrates prompted representatives from agriculture, state and federal agencies, local governments and related associations to initiate the Suwannee River Basin Nutrient Management Working Group, now known as the Suwannee River Partnership.

The partnership — which includes the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or IFAS, and 52 other members — works to develop and promote strategies for monitoring and managing human and animal waste and fertilizer in the basin.