The Secret Global Sewer System

The Secret Global Sewer System

Hi, this is Alex from MinuteEarth. Farmers
are obsessed with water. It makes sense – their livelihoods depend on crops that will die
without enough water. So lots of farmers buy expensive equipment to pump tons of water
to their fields. In fact, of all the water humans use, 70% is for agriculture. But here’s
an even crazier thing – lots of farmers also spend tons of effort and tons of money de-watering
their fields. That’s because too much water is also deadly
for crops. All plant cells need oxygen to function: the cells above the ground take
it from photosynthesis or from the air around, and the cells underground take it from tiny
air pockets in the soil. But if the soil is too wet for too long, the roots can literally
drown, killing the entire plant. Plus, wet fields cause tractors to get stuck and to
compact the soil, which reduces both the amount of air in the soil and the space for roots
to grow. To save their crops from these problems, farmers
around the world have dug ditches and installed special underground pipes to drain excess
water away. As a result, the soil has enough space in it for roots to grow and enough air
for roots to breathe; crops survive, tractors don’t get stuck and overall productivity
increases. However, draining water away more quickly
means that it reaches nearby streams and rivers more quickly, where it can speed up the flow
and contribute to floods. And floods can damage infrastructure and erode river banks and river
bottoms, creating deep channels and muddying the water downstream. Plus, the water coming
from the fields can carry chemicals – from fertilizer and pesticides – which end up polluting
rivers, lakes and eventually, oceans. These problems caused by drainage can be mitigated
somewhat by applying fertilizer and pesticides precisely where and when the crops need them.
We can also send the water through trenches filled with wood chips or buffers of native
plants, both of which can filter out some of the chemicals before the water flows into
a nearby stream. And we can also retrofit the underground pipes to slow down the flow
of water when it’s ok to have a wet field, like when we’re not growing crops. But there is another huge problem with drainage:
it’s helped us turn wetlands into farms. Wetlands are incredibly valuable, because in addition
to providing habitat for fish, birds, and other creatures, they also act like giant
sponges that prevent floods and filter the water – making it cleaner for everyone downstream. In the last 200 years, over half – and maybe
even over ¾ – of the world’s wetlands have disappeared and been replaced mostly with
farmland. So, thanks to drainage we get new and more
productive farmland, which helps us grow lots of extra crops. But we also lose wetlands
and gain some new problems. And unfortunately, gaining the benefits without
any of the downsides may be a pipe dream. This video was sponsored by the University
of Minnesota, where students, faculty and staff across all fields of study are working
to solve the Grand Challenges facing society. One of these challenges is Assuring Clean
Water and Sustainable Ecosystems, and part of the solution is to reduce the pollution
from agricultural runoff. Professor Jacques Finlay and post-doc Christy Dolph in the College
of Biological Sciences, along with collaborators, have found that if we restored wetlands in
strategic locations where they could intercept lots of water, they’d be three times more
effective at removing pollution than wetlands restored elsewhere. Professor Michael Sadowsky
in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate is identifying the bacteria that remove chemicals
from water sent through woodchip trenches. And Adjunct Professor Heidi Peterson in the
Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering is collaborating on a project to filter and
retain drainage water using a wetland at the edge of a field. Thanks, University of Minnesota!

100 Replies to “The Secret Global Sewer System”

  1. Why are cats scared of cucumbers do you have a minute and I love your videos I’m in love with thanks please keep on making them

  2. Constantly evacuating rain quickly from large expanses of land also must change the balance of the underground water table below. I don't think we fully understand this and may be in for some large surprising problems in the future

  3. That's a grotesque amount of land! 100 000 km2 is a hundred thousand million of square meters, or 100 billion m2, for you guys on the other side of the pond, that's 1 076 391 041 671 square feet!

  4. Except all of these measures have taken into account already. Wier wall storm structures, retention ponds, & isolation ponds are already standard procedure today. Worthless virtue signaling.

  5. Thank you to all the people who care enough about the earth's problems to do something about it. God Bless you university of Minnesota.

  6. You hide Pokémon in these a lot, in the bed vid, you put Beedrill near the beginning and in this, you put a Lotad near the end

  7. i think using pesticides damaged the human body and even though i can’t prove it i also think it changed it (human body) , another problem that it might have caused is not allowing insects to feed and multiply and now i hear you talk about endangered or extinct insect species up to the bee where you say that it does spread the seed of vegetables and flowers and such , there was a word for that i don’t remember, i’m no expert though i think birds eat insects , meaning they to a acceptable degree do the job of pesticides, by damaging the living space of birds which is woods in order to field and build more , you might have committed suicide , if you don’t make it , you should know that you’re the other dodo , you think you’re high but you can’t fly

  8. I didn’t know plants could drown from too much water. I thought plants can never get too much water. Huh, the more you know. Thank you for teaching me something new.

  9. "Their livelihoods (of the farmers) depend on the water on their fields"
    Like we in cities didn't depend on the very same farms and farmers

  10. I lived in the country for sometime and literally watched this entire process in motion; breaking ground to lay pipe to keep farmland from flooding, the transformation of surrounding land, although said land transitions were generally back and forth from usable agriculture to recovery base land for wildlife every few years, and dealt with the affects of runoff into the river that cut our property in half and seepage into our well… had to stop using the well for human consumption. Country living!

  11. They start off with farmers just dumping all the chemicals and fertilizer on their fields like some guy from the city on his lawn. They seem to gloss over the fact that everything has a cost. Farmers don't want runoff; that is wasted money that is running down into the rivers and streams.

  12. Okay, so doesn't the solution seem to be to collect the water and reuse it? If it already has the fertilizer and chemicals used on the plants, collecting the drainage and using it again seems like at least should be considered?

  13. EAT GRASS FED BEEF >>> FROM SMALL FARMS >>>> THAT USE almost none of this crap.
    Stop buying things with that soy garbage and soybean oil [ which is in almost everything ]
    Stop eating wheat also >> eat like you are gluten intolerant because everyone is irritated by gluten but some are HEAVILY affected by it.
    Just eat a little bit of rice or potatoes – people don't need all those soy, wheat and corn garbage.

  14. The only issue I have with this is that it makes it sound like the farmers are actively and maliciously trying to destroy the planet. At least, that's what it sounds like several commenters have taken from it. Which is blatantly false, sorry.

  15. it's funny because it can go too far the other way too. for example, mostly in southern australia the river systems' long term prognosis depends on government buying back water off irrigators so they can increase flow rates in the rivers. they call it environmental water (water for the environment as opposed to the irrigator). also in my city of melbourne there has long been initiatives to build wetlands in our major river system – the birrarung /yarra – and in fact now the wetlands are impeding the flow to the detriment of the river system's health and no new wetlands may be installed there (normally they've been introduced as environmental offset for some negatively impactingf development, but it's seen now to be a negative impact itself).

  16. If to much water causes problems why dont they water less or put less water on the planets so they dont have to drain it?
    They can still water enough for the plant to live and grow.

  17. I like when eco-people have "solutions". It's always "We can do X". How much does it cost? Who's going to pay? What incentives do people have? Why aren't they doing it now? Who cares! "We can do X!".

  18. The guy from Minnesota got to 0:35 and he's already teaching the wrong thing. Plants Make oxygen. Get your facts straight.

  19. Perhaps a better solution is to install storage wells where the water can be stored and used during dry seasons. This would solve two problems in my opinion. I can’t be the only one to have considered this solution. The real question is why it hasn’t been done considering we have the technology to do it?

  20. I don't think there is any truth to a majority of this video. And drain tile furthermore has an opposite effect on some of these problems. If you don't believe millennial farmer has some good videos explaining the effects of tile on the environment.

  21. Also have a look at the work of Dr. Elaine Ingham with her soil food web concept, that removes the need for fertilisers and chemicals on fields, and removes compaction, thus increasing water infiltration rates, which removes the need for drainage. Best wishes. Daniel

  22. What's there to research? Just look how people just a few decades ago did it. Use animal dung as fertilizer, till the fields deeper, destroy the pipes and instead build drainage holes where the water gets stored until the field needs it. It's incredibly easy and cheap, so don't waste your time in a lab or library and just go work in the fields to improve them. Check out people like Sepp Holzer from Austria or Stefan Valo from Slovakia, they've already worked on that stuff for decades and their solutions are incredibly simple, sustainable, and still productive enough to make a living off of farming.

  23. The moment when you're about to add a comment but then realize somebody else has already posted it and got so many likes😔😔

  24. I know, let’s instead cover the land with concrete, roads, buildings that divert the water to the sea, and millions of people that can sit in homes and offices creating videos about how bad the farmers who grow these peoples food.

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