Water pollution is when any body of water is contaminated to the point that it harms living organisms or makes the water unsuitable for use. Out of the 70% of water that covers our Earth, only 2.5% of it is fresh water and sustainable for use. For the reason that only 2.5% of it is fresh, every year over three million people die prematurely from “contracting infectious diseases spread by contaminated water or having too little water for adequate hygiene” (Miller 246).
Water pollution can come from two sources, point and non-point sources. A point source is a single source while non-point is larger and dispersed. Point source pollutants come from drain pipes, ditches, or sewers to a specific location such as bodies of water. A few examples would be from factories, oil tankers, and underground mines. The reason these are point sources is because these facilities release treated wastewater. Non-point source pollutants cannot be traced to a sign of release. Examples of these would include runoff of chemicals into surface water from livestock feedlots, urban streets and golf courses. As the water empties into the streams and rivers it accumulates contaminants from the sources the water ran through.
There are also many different types of pollution these include but are not limited to heat, oil, chemicals, and trash in general. The water that they use in factories is used to cool down metal and machinery. Once they release that water into a nearby stream or river, it can make some of the species vulnerable to disease. Many organisms can only live in a narrow range of temperature. Not only does an increase in temperature in water harm the aquatic life, but it also decreases the dissolved oxygen content of the water.
Tanker accidents and blowouts at offshore drilling rigs are some of the reasons why our water is polluted, but it is not the main reason. Of all of the oil in the water around the world “tanker spills only account for 10%” (Denchack 16). Most oil pollutants come from urban and industrial runoff from land. Groundwater can spread contamination far from the original polluting source as it seeps into streams, lakes, and oceans. Once an aquifer becomes polluted, it can possibly be unusable for a decade or even thousands of years. Unfortunately, as a civilization, we greatly depend on the existence of these aquifers.
The result from poorly managed waste is marine debris. When single use disposables are improperly managed this trash can find its way into streams, rivers, lakes, and our ocean. Waterbodies that carry trash will often end up emptying into our oceans. Trash, packaging, and improperly disposed waste from sources on land “account for 80% of the marine debris found on beaches during cleanups and surveys” (epa.gov, Sources of Aquatic Trash 2). The number one item collected from beach cleanups are cigarette butts, finding around 2,248,065.
When it comes to contributors to water pollution there are multiple, but the main one is from industries. In the U.S alone, industries pollute more than two-thirds of fresh water. The main reason for this to be happening is from poorly managed guidelines and not up to date technology. There are many industries still to this day that would prefer older technology, even though it creates the most pollutants. Even though the modern-day technology is more efficient, industries do not want to pay the price for them.
When we mine and drill, we make the land useless for multiple types of agricultural activities. Accidental leakage from their project can trickle down into surrounding water and then it eventually enters the ocean. All of the wastes made during their drill can increase the salt and mineral content of water, causing the pH level to rise.
To prevent this, the large industries that generate a great amount of wastewater should redesign their manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of pollutants and operate their own on-site treatment systems. The treatment of industrial wastewater can be done in three phases?primary treatment that involves mechanical processes, secondary treatment by biological processes, and tertiary treatment that can be done with the help of biological, physical, and chemical processes.
Through “injection wells” billions of the most hazardous wastes are injected into the ground. “In India, the water in all 22 major industrialized zones was found unfit for use.” (waterbenefitshealth.com, Causes of Water Pollution 12) In the year of 1996, the United States Environmental Protection Agency informed us that about 40% of the rivers, estuaries, and lakes that were surveyed were too polluted that their water could not be used for activities like drinking, swimming, and fishing.
Within fertilizers that farmers use, there are nitrates and phosphates, these are used to make the soil nutritious. When it rains, the runoff from these chemicals can choke the life of other organisms by causing an over stimulation of growth of aquatic plants and algae. The is occurs the most in estuaries and deltas.
As of now, livestock is grown in cramped conditions where the animals are fed unnatural diets and sent to slaughterhouses on a regular basis. As a result, they add to the process of agricultural pollution by way of emissions. Bacteria and parasites from these animal’s waste can get into drinking water, which can pose serious health hazards for various aquatic life and animals.
When it rains, pesticides that are used on fields, roadsides, lawns, and gardens flow into the drains and eventually goes into the sewage system. From all of the chemicals within fertilizers and pesticides, after it seeps its way into the ground and eventually becoming groundwater, it ends up being our drinking water. Water utility companies in the Midwest, where farming is very popular, spend over “$400 million a year to treat water for only one chemical, atrazine.” (waterbenefitshealth.com, Causes of Water Pollution 7) Atrazine is a chemical that is used to control the growth of broadleaf weeds and grasses that interfere with the farmers crops.
Another part of agriculture that effects the water is when forests are “clear-cut”. When this happens, it kills the root systems of the trees. In order to have strong ground, you must have strong roots. This being said, having weak root support system causes sediment to run into the nearest water source and contaminates our water. The sediment that is flowing into the water system is very harmful for aquatic life.
There are many things we can do to help prevent water pollution, but one very important one is putting trash collecting nets at the end of drain pipes. In doing this, the net would catch 99.9% of the trash flowing through the pipes. This would help by not allowing trash to make its way into the ocean. Not having trash in our ocean would not only help it look cleaner, it would also save millions of aquatic life forms.
Small things that we can do as a whole would be to not flush non-degradable products. Millions of women across the world flush their plastic tampon applicators which end up in the ocean. Mothers of all ages also believe it’s okay to flush their baby wipes down the toilet, but it’s not. These products will never break down and they will continue to harm the planet, the water, and the animals.
Toxic products such as paint, oil, polishes, and products used to clean should be stored and/or disposed of properly. When cleaning your house, it is better to use non-toxic products as much as possible. You should never dispose of these products by flushing them down your toilet or draining them into the sink. Just like these toxic products, you should also dispose of your trash correctly as well. Non-degradable products such as tampons, sanitary napkins, and diapers should not be flushed down the toilet. This will cause damage to sewage treatments and they normally end up on the shores of beaches. We should try to include recycling into our daily lives as much as possible.
Most likely, we will always have some degree of water pollution. However, if we value water for what it really is, we must protect it.
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