The effects of water pollution strongly impact the balance of nature, which ultimately impacts all humans. With proper care and consideration, many of the situations that cause water pollution can be stopped or decreased.
Types of Water Pollution
Without getting too technical, water pollution is a result of various things, but usually leads back to these sources:
Man-made situations are typically the causes of water pollution. Often, it’s unintended and unknown that actions are contributing to water pollution. Many times it’s the last thought on someone’s mind that their actions could significantly impact the environment locally and beyond.
Ways Water is Polluted
There are three main ways that industries contribute to water pollution. They pollute by disposing of waste directly into waterways, emitting toxic gases that cause acid rain and changing the temperature of water with their disposals into waterways.
- Direct disposal of waste into natural waterways causes waste to build up within the water. A pungent odor is the result. Additionally, this waste decreases the amount of oxygen in water, causing the death of aquatic animals or other organisms.
- The emission of toxic fumes into the air causes acid rain. When the acid rain falls, it contaminates local natural waterways including streams, rivers and lakes. This causes the death of many aquatic animals. Other animals drinking the water may become ill and die, too.
- Thermal pollution occurs when water used to cool hot machinery is released into waterways and the temperature of the water is drastically increased. This temperature change may cause aquatic life to die and numbers to be reduced. Additionally, such a temperature increase decreases the amount of oxygen in water, causing more of a chance of death to organisms.
It’s common for farmers to use fertilizers and other chemicals on their crops to help them grow. However, these chemicals and nutrients added to the soil can soak into the underground water supplies. Additionally, when it rains, these chemicals join the run-off water and flow into streams, rivers and lakes, thus polluting them. Even just the sediments of dirt, without any chemicals, are pollutants in the fact that they cause the waterways to become cloudy and muddy.
Households are a leading cause of water pollution by the trash they create. Even if taken to landfills, often this trash finds its way to natural waterways. Human waste, disposed of typically by sewers, pollute water. Any time a septic system is not installed properly or bursts beneath the ground, the underground water supply may be polluted. Oils and anti-freeze leaked from vehicles pollute water.
Effects of Water Pollution
There are various effects of water pollution.
- Spread of disease: Drinking polluted water can cause cholera or typhoid infections, along with diarrhea.
- Affects body organs: The consumption of highly contaminated water can cause injury to the heart and kidneys.
- Harms the food chain: Toxins within water can harm aquatic organisms, thus breaking a link in the food chain.
- Causes algae in water: Urea, animal manure and vegetable peelings are food for algae. Algae grow according to how much waste is in a water source. Bacteria feed off the algae, decreasing the amount of oxygen in the water. The decreased oxygen causes harm to other organisms living in the water.
- Flooding: The erosion of soil into waterways causes flooding, especially with heavy rainfall.
- Harms animals: Birds that get into oil-contaminated water die from exposure to cold water and air due to feather damage. Other animals are affected when they eat dead fish in contaminated streams.
The effects of water pollution are not always immediate. They are not always seen at the point of contamination. They are sometimes never known by the person responsible for the pollution. However, water pollution has a huge impact on our lives. With knowledge, consideration and preparation, water pollution can be decreased. It doesn’t take much effort — just a little thought.
Water Pollution Solutions
Water pollution is growing daily around the world, but so are water pollution solutions. Find out what you can do to combat water pollution in your area.
Water covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. While less than 3 percent of this water is drinkable, all of it is necessary for supporting life on Earth. Water pollution is one of the biggest threats to the environment today.
There are several types of water pollution ranging from sewage and fertilizers to soil erosion. The impact of water pollution on aquatic life and land life can be devastating. Effects of water pollution can include:
- Overgrowth of algae and surface life, leading to loss of light and nutrients to deep aquatic life
- Suffocation of aquatic life through sediment and loss of water depth
- Disruption of the food chain
- Spread of water-borne illnesses such as dysentery or typhoid
Water Pollution Solutions
The best solution for water pollution is prevention. While pollution that has already occurred is a current threat to all life on Earth, attempts to clean it up may cause even more harm.
Chemicals used to treat or clean up oil spills may further contaminate water supplies. Adjustments in temperature to counteract heat or cooling pollution may not achieve proper balance, leading to more loss of aquatic life.
Preventing water pollution does more for the environment by halting the level of pollutants where they are. This gives the environment needed time to begin to correct itself, and time for scientists to determine the best way to combat existing problems.
Water Pollution Preventions
There are several steps that can be taken to help prevent water pollution from getting worse.
Erosion is one of the biggest causes of water pollution today. When you take steps to conserve soil, you are also conserving water and water life. Planting vegetative covers, strict erosion management and implementing beneficial farming methods are just a few of the many possible approaches to soil conservation.
Dispose of Toxic Chemicals Properly
It’s always a good idea to use lower VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) products in your home whenever possible. If you do use toxic chemicals, such as paints, stains or cleaning supplies, dispose of them properly. Paints can be recycled and oils can be reused after treatment. Proper disposal keeps these substances out of storm drains, water ways and septic tanks.
Keep Machinery in Good Working Order
Oil is one of the largest polluters of water in the world. It’s estimated that just the transportation of oil is responsible for .0001 percent of oil contamination in water. Take steps to ensure you aren’t adding to this problem by repairing oil leaks in cars and machinery as soon as they are spotted. Clean up the residue and dispose of the used oils properly.
Clean Up Beaches and Waterways
Just picking up waste and litter wherever it is spotted can go a long way to keeping debris and pollutants out of the water. Do your part by taking your own trash, other wastes and any you see to a nearby disposal facility.
Avoid Plastics When Possible
Plastic bags in the ocean is a well documented water pollutant. Keep this problem from getting worse by changing to reusable grocery bags whenever possible.
Get Active and Get Involved
Is there a company near your home that releases heat, coolants or chemicals into a nearby waterway? You can get involved. Contact the EPA, local authorities or write letters to the heads of companies. Spreading an awareness of problems is a big first step toward combating them.
While water pollution solutions may seem like too little, too late when viewed in the light of major oil spills and floating plastic bag islands they are necessary to prevent these problems from growing worse. Simply slowing down the rate of pollution can give the environment and scientists time to find long-term solutions to the very real problems of water pollution. If you do your part to prevent pollution in your area, then you’ll be helping to protect aquatic life.