Even the EPA identifies agriculture as a major water pollutant. (1) Agricultural pesticides and nitrates used in fertilizers and manures seep into our groundwater, eventually spilling out into the oceans creating so-called “dead zones” (expansive areas so toxic that neither plant nor animal life can survive) viewable from space in places like the Gulf of Mexico where the Mississippi spills out into the sea. Besides the chemicals used in cultivation, accidental pollution though chemical spills and manure dumps are an ongoing source of water pollution from feedlots. The manure created from the billions of animals killed for food has to go somewhere, and often, it ends up in rivers and streams, killing millions of fish in one fell swoop (2).
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(1) US Environmental Protection Agency. 1984. Report to Congress: Nonpoint Source Pollution in the US Office of Water Program Operations, Water Planning Division. Washington, D.C.
(2) Merritt Frey, et al., Spills and Kills: Manure Pollution and America's Livestock Feedlots, Clean Water Network, Izaak Walton League of America and Natural Resources Defense Council (August 2000)