The contamination of the municipal water supply in Walkerton, Ontario with E. coli and the resulting human tragedy shocked the public. While we may never know the source of the contamination, an anxious public is looking for answers and livestock agriculture is a leading suspect. In particular, "factory farms" are coming under increased scrutiny. What is livestock's record of safety and accountability with respect to manure runoff and water contamination, and what can be done to ensure that livestock operations are both safe and efficient? Little hard evidence exists on these topics- this paper raises questions and discusses the following issues: * What are the sources of water contamination in rural areas, and how significant is livestock agriculture's contribution to the problem? * Are "factory farms" responsible for water quality problems? * What steps must be taken to ensure that livestock agriculture does not degrade water quality and remains competitive? Commercial livestock facilities in Canada have received increased public scrutiny recently. For example, Maclean's cover story for June 12th, 20001 asserts that "there are dangerous consequences of factory farming that are being felt across the country". The concerns relate to perceived environmental and public health problems related to manure. But what is the evidence supporting them, and how do they relate to increasing farm sizes and agri-food competitiveness?


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