Water is crucial to the survival of human, animal, and most plant life on the planet. Fortunately, roughly 70 percent of the earth's surface is covered in water. This water is in constant rotation, going through what is called the water cycle. It can be found as vapor in the air, frozen in ice, flowing in rivers and oceans, and even deep within the ground. Despite this, only three percent of the water on the planet is actually fresh water, or water that is drinkable by humans and animals. When water is polluted, it is no longer safe for drinking. As a result, it puts the amount of drinkable water at risk and raises a very real problem for the world's population and the environment. For this reason, it is very important for people to understand the negative impact of water pollution.
What is Water Pollution?
The first step to combating water pollution is to define what it means. Certain substances, or contaminants, can enter the water and cause physical, chemical, or biological changes in plants and animals that consume it. These changes can negatively affect the organisms that live in the water and may make the water no longer suitable for consumption or other necessary uses. This is the definition of water pollution, which is a very serious problem across the globe.
What Causes Water Pollution?
There is no single cause when it comes to water pollution, as there are numerous culprits. These culprits come from all over the world and can be man-made or natural. Some of the common causes include the introduction of inorganic chemicals, sediment, organic chemicals, plant nutrients, radioactive waste, and oxygen-depleting waste into the water. Volcanoes can introduce sulfur and other harmful chemicals into water supplies as well. Pollution can come from any place on the planet. Human-made contaminants typically come from farms, drains, cars, mines, landfills, factories, and even homes.
Dangers/Effects of Water Pollution
Water pollution poses a danger to the environment and to life forms, including human beings. It changes the water quality and instigates problems such as the overcrowding of algae that can kill marine life. Water pollution in the form of plastics in the water can choke animals or cause them to die from toxins that are released. It is also extremely dangerous to humans and human health: In humans, chemicals from plastics have been linked to birth defects and problems with the reproductive system. Contaminants such as feces from animals and humans can make their way into the water supply, and this is one of the leading causes of waterborne health problems and disease in humans. Additionally, water pollution may also contribute to certain types of cancer.
How to Treat Water Pollution
One way to cope with water pollution is to treat polluted water. Water purification can be done by both individuals and municipal organizations to reclaim water for consumption. Individuals can use techniques such as boiling water and water filtration techniques for a person or a family. Large populations, on the other hand, require large facilities called water treatment plants. Water treatment plants are large-scale facilities that use a combination of different filtration techniques to process millions of gallons of water per day for populations of a hundred thousand people or more. Large-scale water treatment and purification is a very resource-intensive and thus expensive process.
What Is Water Pollution? (PDF)
How To Prevent Water Pollution
It is said that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." In the case of managing drinkable water, this is especially true. It costs much less in resources and effort to avoid pollution than to treat it. The prevention of water pollution is everyone's responsibility, from government agencies to big and small businesses and ultimately everyday citizens around the world.
Better waste management is one of the ways that local governments and businesses can help prevent water pollution. Recycling and disposal programs can help people properly get rid of things such as unused or expired medications, which could otherwise end up in our water supply. Local governments should also be encouraged to create ordinances for the control of sediment and erosion from construction. Educating communities about the dangers of dumping chemicals down toilets and drains can also be a useful preventative measure.
People in general can make changes in their day-to-day lives that will prevent harmful substances from entering the water. Using compost and other natural fertilizers instead of fertilizers and pest control products that contain toxic ingredients is another way to avoid creating pollution. Recycling products such as antifreeze and motor oil are helpful, as is repairing vehicle fluid leaks and driving less often. The fewer cars that are driving, the less pollution is being emitted in the air. Pollution in the atmosphere helps to pollute the water and make ocean waters more acidic and dangerous to sea life.
Written By: Lynn Taylor