As Earth's population continues to grow, people are putting ever-increasing pressure on the planet's water resources. In a sense, our oceans, rivers, and other inland waters are being "squeezed" by human activities; not so they take up less room, but so their quality is reduced. Poor water quality is termed water pollution.
Pollution is a human problem because it is a relatively recent development in the planet's history: before the 19th century Industrial Revolution, people lived more in harmony with their immediate environment. As industrialization has spread around the globe, so the problem of pollution has spread with it. When earth's population was much smaller, no one believed pollution would ever present a serious problem. It was once popularly believed that the oceans were far too big to pollute. Today, with around 7 billion people on the planet, it has become apparent that there are limits. Pollution is one of the signs that humans have exceeded those limits. "water pollution"
What is water pollution
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (like oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, aquifers and groundwater) usually caused due to human activities. Water pollution is any change in the physical, chemical or biological properties of water that will have a detrimental consequence on any living organism
Thus, water pollution is all about quantities: how much of a polluting substance is released and how big a volume of water it is released into. A small quantity of a toxic chemical may have little impact if it is spilled into the ocean from a ship. But the same amount of the same chemical can have a much bigger impact pumped into a lake or river, where there is less clean water to disperse it. "water pollution"
Difference between water contamination and water pollution?
These two words might seem like they mean the same thing, but there’s a slight difference. Water contamination refers to any situation in which water contains something other than water. Only pure water can be considered free of any contaminants. Even when water contains trace amounts of salt or minerals, it’s technically contaminated. As you can see, contamination isn’t always a bad thing, even though the connotation of the term implies that it is. Contamination may be something as simple as hard water in your tap or as significant as E. coli outbreaks.
How much water contamination does it take for pollution to occur?
Basically, there is a cutoff point at which water contamination becomes water pollution. It all has to do with the amount and severity of the contaminant present in the water. For example, trace amounts of copper are actually beneficial in water, and many treatment facilities will add this to fresh water to provide some much-needed nutrients to the people who drink it. However, if copper is present at higher levels, it can seriously poison anyone who comes into contact with this water. Only when copper is present in a high enough quantity does it become a pollutant instead of a contaminant..
How do we know when water is polluted?
Some forms of water pollution are very obvious: most of us have seen TV news footage of oil spillages evidently shown as forms of pollution..
There are two main ways of measuring the quality of water.
- To take samples of the water and measure the concentrations of different chemicals that it contains. If the chemicals are dangerous or the concentrations are too great, we can regard the water as polluted. Measurements like this are known as chemical indicators of water quality.
- Another way to measure water quality involves examining the fish, insects, and other invertebrates that the water will support. If many different types of creatures can live in a river, the quality is likely to be very good; if the river supports no fish life at all, the quality is obviously much poorer.
Areas at greatest risk for water contamination
Although we all face water contamination regularly, there are some places where it’s more of a concern than others. For example, anywhere unsanitary conditions are present, the water is much more likely to be contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses, and more. People who live downstream from factories are more likely to experience contamination from chemicals and waste, while anyone living in a rural community near a lot of farms may be at greater risk for contamination from chemical pesticides. "water pollution"
Causes of water pollution
Most water pollution doesn't begin in the water itself. For instance take the oceans; around 80 percent of ocean pollution enters our seas from the land. Virtually any human activity can have an effect on the quality of our water environment. When farmers fertilize the fields, the chemicals they use are gradually washed by rain into the groundwater or surface waters nearby. Sometimes the causes of water pollution are quite surprising. Chemicals released by smokestacks (chimneys) can enter the atmosphere and then fall back to earth as rain, entering seas, rivers, and lakes and causing water pollution. That's called atmospheric deposition. Water pollution has many different causes and this is one of the reasons why it is such a difficult problem to solve.
sewage is a completely natural substance that should be broken down harmlessly in the environment.
With billions of people on the planet, disposing of sewage waste is a major problem. Sewage disposal affects people's immediate environments and leads to water-related illnesses such as diarrhea that kills 525,000 children under five each year
Proper handling and management of sewage is of great concern, Sometimes sewage waste is pumped untreated into the sea. Unfortunately, even in some of the richest nations, the practice of dumping sewage into the sea continues.
The trouble is, sewage is often released in much greater quantities than the natural environment can cope with. Relating sewage to agriculture- Chemical fertilizers used by farmers also add nutrients to the soil, which drain into rivers and seas and add to the fertilizing effect of the sewage. Together, sewage and fertilizers can cause a massive increase in the growth of algae or plankton that overwhelms huge areas of oceans, lakes, or rivers. This is known as a harmful algal bloom (also known as an HAB or red tide, because it can turn the water red). It is harmful because it removes oxygen from the water that kills other forms of life, leading to what is known as a dead zone. "water pollution"
chemicals washed down drains and discharged from factories can cause water pollution . Around half of all ocean pollution is caused by sewage and waste water. Each year, the world generates perhaps 5–10 billion tons of industrial waste, much of which is pumped untreated into rivers, oceans, and other waterways. Factories are point sources of water pollution, but quite a lot of water is polluted by ordinary people from nonpoint sources; this is how ordinary water becomes waste water in the first place. Virtually everyone pours chemicals of one sort or another down their drains or toilets.
Even considering oil by itself, tanker spills are not as significant as they might seem: only 12 percent of the oil that enters the oceans comes from tanker accidents; over 70 percent of oil pollution at sea comes from routine shipping and from the oil people pour down drains on land. However, what makes tanker spills so destructive is the sheer quantity of oil they release at once; in other words, the concentration of oil they produce in one very localized part of the marine environment pollute the entire environment and surrounding water body.
Plastic is the most common substance that washes up with the waves. There are three reasons for this:
- plastic is one of the most common materials, used for making virtually every kind of manufactured object from clothing to automobile parts;
- plastic is light and floats easily so it can travel enormous distances across the oceans;
- most plastics are not biodegradable (they do not break down naturally in the environment)
which means that things like plastic bottle tops can survive in the marine environment for a long time. (A plastic bottle can survive an estimated 450 years in the ocean and plastic fishing line can last up to 600 years.)
While plastics are not toxic in quite the same way as poisonous chemicals, they nevertheless present a major hazard to seabirds, fish, and other marine creatures. "water pollution"
Another kind of toxic pollution comes from heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. Lead was once commonly used in gasoline (petrol), though its use is now restricted in some countries. Mercury and cadmium are still used in batteries (though some brands now use other metals instead). Until recently, a highly toxic chemical called tributyltin (TBT) was used in paints to protect boats from the ravaging effects of the oceans. Ironically, however, TBT was gradually recognized as a pollutant: boats painted with it were doing as much damage to the oceans as the oceans were doing to the boats.
People view radioactive waste with great alarm—and for good reason. At high enough concentrations it can kill; in lower concentrations it can cause cancers and other illnesses.
Effects of Water Pollution
Diseases: In humans, drinking or consuming polluted water in any way has many disastrous effects on our health. It causes typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and various other diseases.
- Eutrophication: Chemicals in a water body, encourage the growth of algae. These algae form a layer on top of the pond or lake. Bacteria feed on this algae and this decreases the amount of oxygen in the water body, severely affecting the aquatic life there.
- Destruction of Ecosystems: Ecosystems are extremely dynamic and respond to even small changes in the environment. Water pollution can cause an entire ecosystem to collapse if left unchecked.
- Tourism – Places that rely on their natural or manmade water sources to draw in tourists have a lot to lose when that water gets polluted. No one wants to visit a lake that’s known to contain high levels of lead, for example, so the economy in the town surrounding it suffers. Even water parks can be doomed by pollution.
- Fishing – The fishing industry has already taken a huge hit from pollution and contamination both, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. People who fish for a living have found the number of potential fish for them to catch dwindling more and more over the past several years because of contamination in fresh bodies of water. This shift in the economy affects people who buy fish for restaurants, people who eat at those restaurants, the communities surrounding them, and so on.
- Bacteria – The bacteria that can be present in contaminated water range from beneficial to deadly, and the severity of each bacterial contamination situation differs from one to the next. Serious bacteria present in water can cause illnesses like typhoid, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, coli contamination, and much more. This is much more common in places where conditions are very unsanitary and water isn’t sent to a treatment facility before it’s used in taps, such as in developing countries.
- Parasites – Parasites can easily be found in almost any source of freshwater. They tend to live in water, where they can be easily ingested by humans and animals like. From there, they set up in different parts of the body—usually in the digestive system, but not always—and lay their eggs, leading to an infestation of the body in question. Sometimes parasites can exist in human bodies without the slightest indication, but in most situations, they lead to digestive upset, fatigue, fevers, headaches, and sometimes much more serious health effects. Some parasitic contamination can lead to death, especially in young children and in the elderly.
- Affects the food chain: Disruption in food chains happens when toxins and pollutants in the water are consumed by aquatic animals (fish, shellfish etc) which are then consumed by humans.
Prevention of Water Pollution
- The best way to prevent large-scale water pollution is to try and reduce its harmful effects. There are various small changes we can make to protect ourselves from a scary future where water is scarce.
- Save Water: Water wastage is a major problem globally and we are only now waking up to the issue. Simply small changes you can make domestically will make a huge difference.
- Better treatment of sewage: So treating waste products before disposing of it in a water body helps reduce water pollution on a large scale. Agriculture or other industries can reuse this wastewater by reducing its toxic contents.
- Use environmentally friendly products: By using soluble products that do not go on to become pollutants, we can reduce the amount of water pollution caused by a household.
- We can take community action too, by helping out on beach cleans or litter picks to keep our rivers and seas that little bit cleaner. And we can take action as countries and continents to pass laws that will make pollution harder and the world less polluted. Working together, we can make pollution less of a problem—and the world a better place.
The effects of water contamination and pollution are felt around the world. When you pitch in to help prevent and clean up these problems, you’re doing something to help everyone—not just yourself.
You can suggest other efficient ways of combating global water pollution using the comment box.