Soil Erosion Costs are Worth Millions, Threaten Food Supply and Water

Idaho is one of the states with the fastest-growing population. In 2018, its number of residents ballooned by 2.1%. Compare that to the national average, which increased by not over 1%.

With more residents, the demand for housing and businesses also increases. Although this boosts construction activities, it also highlights the importance of erosion control, especially since Idaho has many sloping areas.

Otherwise, the economic costs of soil erosion can be worth millions.

What is the Value of Soil Erosion?

Soil erosion can be the sudden or gradual removal and movement of the topsoil. The topsoil may travel from its original destination down to different bodies of water. It may also pollute flatlands and threaten agriculture.

According to a report, the economic cost of soil erosion in the US from 1933 to 2010 was $44 billion annually. It’s only a few million lower than that of the European Union.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also estimated the loss to be around $44.40 billion. Specifically, farm income loss was $100 million each year, according to 2007 data.

These primary issues can create a domino effect, which will only increase the economic costs further. Take reduced food production, for example.

Soil erosion may limit the kinds of crops farmers can grow. It may also force them to consider planting something else, changing the supply chain. As soil continues to erode, it may become less suitable for agriculture.

woman gardening

When this happens, food insecurity or hunger goes up. According to the Bread for the World Institute, the estimated value of this problem is $160 billion. A significant chunk of it will be healthcare costs. Hunger can lead to:

  • $7.10 billion due to digestive and nutrition problems
  • $57.08 billion due to mental health issues
  • $45.95 billion due to poorer general health
  • $5.48 billion due to lost productivity
  • $7.12 billion for non-communicable diseases, such as heart disorders, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension

The financial costs of pollution are also expensive. According to a 2017 Lancet Commission report, it could be $4.6 trillion each year or over 6% of the world’s economic output. Water pollution, for instance, can cause:

  • Contamination of the potable water supply
  • Water-borne diseases, such as cholera
  • Death of marine life
  • Significant or even permanent changes to the marine ecosystem

Soil erosion in Idaho can hurt businesses, as well. It can delay construction, which drives the project costs up. Injury and other damages due to soil erosion can ruin a business reputation, cause hefty penalties, and may even lead to the revocation of business permits or licenses.

How to Reduce Soil Erosion

The excellent news about soil erosion is it is preventable or controllable. Benefits also outweigh the risks and costs.

For those involved in construction, they can avoid this problem through strategies such as stormwater management and erosion blankets, which can hold underlying soil. According to the EPA, construction projects that involve at least an acre of land will also need a permit to guarantee they conform to erosion control-related safety standards.

Soil erosion threatens the basic needs of humans, such as clean water and food supply. But industries can also reduce or prevent it with practical strategies.

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