The Seed Multiplier
Doug Brands is the water supervisor for the city of Edgerton charged with taking care of the city’s drinking water wells and its ion exchange water treatment plant that filters the nitrates out of the water.
“Edgerton has very good water except for the fact that it’s high in nitrates,” he said.
The city’s treatment facility was constructed in 2002. A new water source was added recently through Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water that gives the city more options.
“Edgerton only has one well so if that would become contaminated, we have a second source, or if our water treatment plant should fail, I can’t produce water with low nitrates so I’d be able to use some from Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water then, or I can use it as a blending source,” Brands said.
Nitrates get into the water through excess fertilizer that’s not absorbed by plants and runs-off the land or into the groundwater.
The city of Edgerton began tracking nitrates in 1983. Contracts with producers to keep the wellhead protection land out of active cropland production would begin about a decade later.
Ideally, Brands said, the city has been trying to protect its public drinking supply by preventing nitrogen from getting into the water rather than simply treating or blending once it does. That led Brands through others to Kernza, a new perennial intermediate wheatgrass that’s being developed jointly by the Land Institute in Kansas and the University of Minnesota.