AU water expert eyes farm runoff in Gulf of Mexico

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - An Auburn University clean water expert hopes a new project will help reduce farm runoff that's a growing pollution threat to the Gulf of Mexico.

Bill Deutsch (DOYCH) said colleagues in Veracruz, Mexico, are partners in the three-year effort to monitor water flowing into the Gulf.

The federally funded, $300,000 project will enlist middle and high school students to take water samples from streams feeding the Gulf and send them in for testing.

He said researchers will look at bacteria counts and other elements to determine whether a stream is getting better or worse.

If a stream is polluted, they'll try to trace that pollution back to its source.

Deutsch said his project will also help livestock producers in Alabama and in Veracruz develop management practices to limit Gulf pollution.

Their target is agricultural runoff that drains from Gulf states and as far away as the U.S. Midwest.

Nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants from the farms end up on a huge scale in the Gulf.

One result is an 8,000-square-mile aquatic "dead zone" that forms annually off the Louisiana and Texas coasts.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)