Man-made wetlands could help reduce nitrate levels in drinking water

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BLOOMINGTON - A central Illinois city that has struggled with nitrate levels in its public drinking water supply is turning to farmers for help, whose fertilizer-laden fields helped create the problem.

Superintendent of water purification Rick Twait is working with others to reduce nitrates in Bloomington's drinking water supply by focusing on the 72,000 acres of watersheds that feeds Bloomington's existing reservoirs.

The Nature Conservancy, with the help of the University of Illinois and others, worked to place wetlands in farming fields with the goal of reducing nitrates in the water by 50 percent.  A decade later, researchers are saying that the numbers are encouraging.

The idea of using wetlands to produce cleaner drinking water is not unique to Illinois, as a man-made wetlands system in Texas is being used to clean 65,000 gallons of water for local water supplies.

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