What is Water Pollution?
Water pollution is the contamination of water sources by substances which make the water unusable for drinking, cooking, cleaning, swimming, and other activities. Pollutants include chemicals, trash, bacteria, and parasites.
All forms of pollution eventually make their way to the water. Air pollution settles onto lakes and oceans. Land pollution can seep into an underground stream, then to a river, and finally to the ocean. Thus, waste dumped in a vacant lot can eventually pollute a water supply.
In addition to the damage to many species, water pollution can also lead to water-borne diseases for people. Water pollution can also be classified as surface water pollution or groundwater pollution. Sources of water pollution are either point sources or non-point sources.
- Point sources have one identifiable cause, such as a storm drain or a wastewater treatment plant.
- Non-point sources are more diffuse, such as agricultural runoff. Pollution is the result of the cumulative effect over time.
Definition of Water Pollution
Water pollution can be defined as the harmful substances often chemicals or microorganisms contaminate a stream, river, lake, ocean, aquifer, or other body of water, degrading water quality and rendering it toxic to humans or the environment.
Sources of Water Pollution
This section gives information about the most significant sources of water pollution.
1. Sewage (Waste Water)
Sewage is another name for wastewater from domestic and industrial processes. Despite strict regulatory control, the Environment Agency data shows that the water and sewage industry accounted for almost a quarter of the serious water incidents in England and Wales in 2006.
2. Agricultural Pollution
The agriculture industry covers 76% of the land area of England and Wales. Agricultural processes such as uncontrolled spreading of slurries and manure, disposal of sheep dip, tillage, ploughing of the land, use of pesticides and fertilizers can cause water pollution. Accidental spills from milk dairies can also affect the quality of water.
3. Oil Pollution
Every year there are about 3,000 pollution incidents involving oil and fuels in England and Wales. Oil spillages affect water quality in a number of ways. Oil can make drinking water unsafe to drink. A substantial amount of oil released into oceans and seas will destroy wildlife and the ecosystems that sustain them.
Oil spills also reduce oxygen supplies within the water environment. The main causes of oil-related water pollution are:
- loss from storage facilities
- spillage during delivery and;
- deliberate disposal of waste oil to drainage systems
4. Radioactive Substances
Radioactive waste is another source of water pollution. Radioactive substances are used in nuclear power plants, industrial, medical, and other scientific processes. They can be found in watches, luminous clocks, television sets, and x-ray machinery.
There are also naturally occurring radioisotopes from organisms and within the environment. If not properly disposed of, radioactive waste can result in serious water pollution incidents.
5. River dumping
Lots of people dump supermarket trolleys, bicycles, garden cuttings, and electronic waste into rivers or river banks. This is illegal and offenders may be charged for fly-tipping if caught. River dumping not only causes water pollution; it also harms wildlife and increases the risk of flooding.
Fly-tipping (this includes river dumping) is a criminal offense. In the most severe cases, it can attract a maximum fine of £50,000 or a 5-year jail term.
6. Marine Dumping
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that a staggering amount of waste enters the sea every year. Part of this is due to the deliberate dumping of waste into coastal waters. Other sources of waste at sea include plastics and other materials blown or washed from land.
Marine dumping is illegal under international and UK legislation. For more information visit the Marine Pollution page.
Types of water pollution
There are many types of water pollution because water comes from many sources. Here are a few types of water pollution:
1. Nutrient’s pollution:
Some wastewater, fertilizers, and sewage contain high levels of nutrients. If they end up in water bodies, they encourage algae and weed growth in the water. That will make the water undrinkable, and even clog filters. Too many algae will also use up all the oxygen in a water body, and other water organisms in the water will die out of oxygen starvation.
2. Surface water pollution:
Surface water includes natural water found on the earth’s surface, like rivers, lakes, lagoons, and oceans. Hazardous substances coming into contact with this surface water, dissolving, or mixing physically with the water can be called surface water pollution.
3. Oxygen depleting:
Water bodies have micro-organisms. These include aerobic and anaerobic organisms. When too much biodegradable matter (things that easily decay) ends up in the water, it encourages more micro-organism growth, and they use up more oxygen in the water. If oxygen is depleted, aerobic organisms die, and anaerobic organisms grow more to produce harmful toxins such as ammonia and sulfides.
4. Groundwater pollution:
When humans apply pesticides and chemicals to soils, they are washed deep into the ground by rainwater. This gets to underground water, causing pollution underground. That means when we dig wells and boreholes to get water from underground, it needs to be checked for groundwater pollution.
In many communities in the world, people drink untreated water (straight from a river or stream). Sometimes there is natural pollution caused by microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. This natural pollution can cause fishes and other water life to die. They can also cause serious illness to humans who drink from such waters.
6. Suspended matter:
Some pollutants (substances, particles, and chemicals) do not easily dissolve in water. This kind of material is called particulate matter. Some suspending pollutants later settle under the water body. That can harm and even kill aquatic organisms that live at the bottom of water bodies.
7. Chemical water pollution:
Many industries and farmers work with chemicals that end up in the water. This is common with Point-source Pollution. These include chemicals used to control weeds, insects, and pests. Metals and solvents from industries can pollute water bodies. These are poisonous to many forms of aquatic life and may slow their development, make them infertile, and kill them.
8. Oil spillage:
Oil spills usually have only a localized effect on wildlife but can spread for miles. The oil can cause death to many fish and get stuck to the feathers of seabirds, causing them to lose their ability to fly.
Effects Of Water Pollution
Deteriorating water quality is damaging the environment, health conditions, and the global economy. The president of the World Bank, David Malpass, warns of the economic impact: “Deteriorating water quality is stalling economic growth and exacerbating poverty in many countries”.
The explanation is that, when biological oxygen demands the indicator that measures the organic pollution found in water, exceeds a certain threshold, the growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the regions within the associated water basins falls by a third. In addition, here are some of the other consequences:
- Destruction of biodiversity. Water pollution depletes aquatic ecosystems and triggers unbridled proliferation of phytoplankton in lakes, eutrophication.
- Contamination of the food chain. Fishing in polluted waters and the use of waste water for livestock farming and agriculture can introduce toxins into foods which are harmful to our health when eaten.
- Lack of potable water. The UN says that billions of people around the world have no access to clean water to drink or sanitation, particularly in rural areas.
- Disease. The WHO estimates that about 2 billion people have no option but to drink water contaminated by excrement, exposing them to diseases such as cholera, hepatitis A and dysentery.
- Infant mortality. According to the UN, diarrhoeal diseases linked to lack of hygiene cause the death of about 1,000 children a day worldwide.
Solution of Water Pollution
In order to effectively tackle water pollution, it’s important to understand what causes this pollution to occur in the first place. The many causes of water pollution include everything from incorrect sewage disposal to fast urban development.
While it will take a substantial amount of effort to lessen water pollution, there are many effective solutions that can help with the reduction of pollution in all bodies of water.
This article will take a look at some of the more notable solutions, which include:
- Wastewater Treatment: Likely the most effective way to reduce water pollution is by treating some of the water before it’s reintroduced into the waterways. This is a highly effective solution because wastewater treatment facilities are able to remove nearly all pollutants in wastewater via a chemical, physical, or biological process.
- Plastic Waste Reduction: Plastics are commonly washed into the ocean and other bodies of water, which only serves to degrade the quality of the water. It’s believed that around 9-12 million tons of plastic reach the ocean every year, which is a number that needs to be reduced substantially to make sure that the quality of ocean water doesn’t worsen even more.To help reduce the amount of plastic waste that gets cycled into the environment, it’s recommended that you avoid using plastics whenever possible. Seek alternatives for plastic bottles, plastic utensils, and straws. Whenever you use plastic, make sure that you recycle.
- Water Conservation: If you want to do your part to keep water clean and pure in a manner that will protect the environment, it’s important that you focus on water conservation when possible. There are many ways that you can conserve water on a daily basis. Whenever you’re shaving or brushing your teeth, it’s recommended that you keep the water turned off.
- Install a water-efficient toilet in your home: Consider installing an efficient toilet in your bathroom that won’t use as much water when you flush it. This method of reducing water pollution relates to the previous point in that it will help you conserve water. If you want to do your part to help the environment, ultra-efficient toilets are available that only use 0.8-1.1 gallons of water per flush. Along with saving you money, a water-efficient toilet will also help you avoid wasting water.
- Septic tanks: Septic tanks are useful pieces of equipment that are able to treat sewage by efficiently separating the liquids from the solids. These tanks will use various biological processes to properly degrade the solid substances before the liquids flow directly into a land drainage system. Septic tanks limit water pollution by effectively getting rid of the pollution that is already in the water.
- Avoid using the toilet as a wastebasket: If you want to avoid adding to water pollution, it’s recommended that you avoid using your toilet as a wastebasket. Dust cloths, wrappers, and the majority of the tissues that you use should be placed directly into a wastebasket as opposed to a toilet.
- Stormwater management: It’s important to manage stormwater and the pollution within it because this water will eventually reach rivers, streams, and oceans, which can worsen the pollution in these bodies of water. Managing stormwater should help to lessen this issue and reduce the amount of pollution that reaches the ocean.
- Green agriculture: Unfortunately, agriculture is the primary cause of water pollution. Whenever it rains, the pesticides and fertilizers wash away with the stormwater, which takes viruses and bacteria into the waterways. It’s possible, however, for agriculture to be more friendly to the environment. To foster the use of green agriculture, consider planting trees and other plants nearby bodies of water, which will keep chemicals from being washed away when it rains.
- Denitrification: Denitrification is a simple ecological process that’s designed to convert nitrates directly into nitrogen gas, which helps to prevent nitrate from being taken into the soil and contaminating the groundwater. When too much nitrate reaches groundwater, the nitrogen content of the water is far too high, which causes algae and phytoplankton to grow at an accelerated rate.
Conclusion of Water pollution
Water pollution is a global problem and the world community is facing the worst results from polluted water. The main sources of water pollution are household and agricultural waste discharges, population growth, overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, and urbanization.
Bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases spread through polluted water and affect human health. It is recommended that there is a proper waste disposal system in place and that the waste is treated prior to entering the river. Awareness and awareness programs should be organized to control pollution.