Standard Article

Animal Farming Operations: Groundwater Quality Issues

Agricultural Water

  1. Thomas Harter

Published Online: 15 APR 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.aw39

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Harter, T. 2005. Animal Farming Operations: Groundwater Quality Issues. Water Encyclopedia. 3:538–540.

Author Information

  1. University of California, Davis, California

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2005


Animal farming operations (AFOs) include feedlots, dairies, cattle farms, hog farms, chicken farms, and other facilities that raise or maintain a significant number of animals either seasonally or year-round. With respect to groundwater quality, the fate, reuse, and disposal of animal manure produced at AFOs is of critical concern.

Groundwater benefits a wide variety of uses including production as drinking water for domestic/municipal use, production as irrigation water for agricultural/municipal uses, ecosystem support, and providing base flow in rivers and streams that is vital to the ecological health of these surface waters. AFO related groundwater quality issues result from potentially detrimental impacts during the collection, transport, storage, and land application of animal manure and animal wastes.

Potential groundwater pollutants originating from AFOs are (1) salts and nutrients, (2) bacteria that indicate the presence of pathogens, and (3) organic or inorganic chemicals specifically associated with the management of AFOs.


  • groundwater;
  • water quality;
  • animal farming operations;
  • confined animal farming operations;
  • salinity;
  • nitrate;
  • pesticide;
  • fertilizer;
  • manure;
  • pathogens