Ways kids can help protect our oceans, rivers, and lakes

For more than a billion people on Earth, clean water is impossible or very difficult to find. Water pollution has deeply affected our planet in every way, hurting our oceans, lakes, rivers, and animals. Although clean water is the most important resource on Earth, we have been careless with our supply. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to help combat water pollution, beginning with learning about common pollutants and their harmful effects on the environment. Keep reading to learn more about what you can do to keep our drinking water safe and healthy.

What Is Water Pollution?

Water pollution occurs when harmful chemicals and substances (usually from human activity) reach our oceans, lakes, rivers, and groundwater. Water pollution is harmful to the fish and other animals that live in our water, and it can majorly disrupt the natural water cycle. Water pollution is the second most important environmental problem (with #1 being air pollution) because the earth is made of more than 70% water. Pollution directly affects our drinking water and can be very harmful to our health. The leading cause of death in developing countries is often polluted water - so it is very important that we keep our water sources clean.

Common Pollutants

A few common causes of water pollution are sewage, wastewater from factories and farms, fertilizers and pesticides, and trash (caused by littering). Fertilizers, sewage, and wastewater contain high levels of nutrients that disrupt the natural balance of clean water. Too many nutrients encourage the growth of algae, which uses all of the oxygen in the water and makes it undrinkable. Surface water pollution happens when dangerous substances are mixed with natural bodies of water like rivers, lakes, and oceans. For example, oil spills cause massive damage to our water and can spread for hundreds of miles. Ground water pollution by humans is a huge problem that can easily be prevented. This type of pollution happens when we use harmful chemicals (such as pesticides), which are then absorbed into the ground with the help of rainwater. These chemicals eventually work their way down into the water table and make the water dangerous to drink. Avoiding harmful pesticides and disposing of dangerous chemicals properly is an easy way to prevent contamination.

How It Affects Our Environment

Water pollution affects every aspect of our environment. It is a huge factor in the death of many types of animals, especially marine life. Millions of fish, birds, crabs, dolphins, and seagulls are killed each year because of pollution. Many aquatic animals have had their entire ecosystems destroyed by water pollution. Unclean water also disrupts the food chain, which works its way back to us. Tiny organisms are affected by pollutants such as lead and mercury, which are then eaten by larger animals like shellfish and fish. When humans consume these animals, we are being exposed to toxic chemicals.

How You Can Help

The introduction of sewage, pesticides, and trash into our water can easily make people very sick. This is why it's important to be mindful of the types of products we use and try to avoid chemicals and other harmful pollutants. Luckily, there are many things you can do at home to help prevent water pollution!

Never waste water. Remember that clean water is precious and should not be taken for granted, so never keep the faucet running when brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Avoid dangerous pesticides, herbicides, household cleaners, and soaps. Help your parents choose products that are safe and eco-friendly. Make sure to always throw your trash in the trash can when at the beach, park, or lake. Loose trash almost always finds its way into the nearest body of water and can go on to do great harm. Never pour dangerous chemicals, paints, or medicines down the drain - when in doubt, put them aside and wait for an adult to call the authorities and ask what to do with them. Cities usually have designated waste areas with bins especially for things like paint cans. If your family chooses to use pesticides and fertilizers for the garden, be careful not to overuse them. A great alternative to store-bought fertilizers is a compost bin - these environmentally-friendly bins turn your food, yard, and paper waste into nutrient-rich plant food and are great choices for those trying to help the environment.

Berkey Author

Written By: Lynn Taylor

Big Berkey