Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS)


By Michael J. Lynch, University of South Florida, FL


Nonpoint Source Pollution, also referred to as NPS, is a form of pollution without a specific, single identifiable source. NPS pollution can include both air and water pollution. The term applies to automobile emissions which, while they might appear to be a specific source (identifiable), produce a general pollution problem from the emissions produced by numerous automobiles. NPS pollution associated with storm water run-off from rain and melting snow is a particularly widespread environmental problem. This source of pollution is particularly problematic in urban areas in the form of urban runoff. Also problematic is agricultural NPS pollution which contains fertilizers and pesticides which can have significant adverse impacts on waterways. NPS pollution is the leading cause of water pollution in the United States.

NPS is problematic from the perspective of control and due to their transport once released into the environment, and the general opinion is that these characteristics make it difficult to regulate NPS pollution.

NPS pollution can take several forms. These include: nutrient runoff; toxic chemicals; fertilizers; pesticides; and sediment.

Air pollution can be characterized both as point source (see, Point Source Pollution) and nonpoint source pollution. The emission of air pollution from, for example, an industrial smoke stack is point source pollution. However, once that pollution enters the atmosphere, it can be transported long distances, and the origins of the emission are no longer discernible. In this case, transported air pollution is referred to as NSP pollution.

In the US, the control of NPS pollution is addressed by the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

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