When people take a drink of water from the tap or sink into a luxuriating bubble bath, most are looking forward to consuming or coming in contact with liquid that is clean and free of chemicals, dirt, and other types of contamination. Not only does polluted water cause safety hazards and medical threats, but also terrorizes the stability and well-being of the environment.
Unbeknownst to many, the most common everyday household actions serve as one of the major contributors to polluted runoff. Fertilizing the lawn, leaky car oil, staining the deck, painting the house, and leaving pet waste in the yard are all ways that humans contribute to the issue of water pollution. To protect the integrity of the environment, as well as one of the most precious resources on Earth, the public should adhere to the many different ways to prevent and reduce water pollution.
What is Water Pollution?
Water pollution is an accumulation of many different adverse effects that take place on the bodies of water across the world to produce poor water quality and contamination. Lakes, rivers, oceans, and groundwater are just some of the entities affected by the activities of humans. While a host of natural occurrences (volcanoes, earthquakes, algae) also cause significant changes in the quality of water, this type of ecological alteration is not considered pollution .
Instead, humans are responsible for the many different causes and characteristics of water pollution. For instance, the heavy metals, oils, and other organic toxins that come from industrial buildings are responsible for a great amount of wastewater that pollutes surrounding bodies of water. Power stations, construction sites, hospitals, and sewage systems are all man-made causes of water pollution.
According the Water Partners International, the problem is seen as a worldwide obstacle that some consider the leading cause of deaths and disease across the globe. Water-related diseases are the leading cause of death in the world, where more than 14,000 people per day succumb to water pollution . It is also estimated that more than 1 billion people lack a sufficient supply of drinking water.
The Negative Effects of Water Pollution
Water pollution is a threat that greatly affects all humans, animals, plants, as well as the ecological balance of the world. Polluted water causes a wealth of health conditions to occur in humans, such a low birth weight, a higher incidence in breast cancer cases, and low sperm count . Contaminated water kills animals, plants, and disrupts the equilibrium in nature. Water pollution also facilitates an environmental cycle that continues to plague the stability of life on Earth.
Environmentally speaking, the hardest hit by water pollution are water dwelling creatures. The impact is quite detrimental, as it is their living conditions mostly affected by this type of pollution. For example, polluted water causes freshwater bottom dwellers to become threatened; an imbalance to occur within ecosystems; the upsetting of sex hormones in fish; and abnormalities in the endocrine, immune, and reproductive system.
A decline in amphibians, such as lower frog and salamander numbers, is seen across the world. It is believed that polluted waters contribute to the current 21 amphibian species on the endangered species list. Sudden deaths in fish are also taking place in alarming numbers, including more than 240,000 dead fish along the Tennessee River in Alabama, and the sudden elimination of 100,000 to 300,000 black crappie in Minnesota . A tested sample of the affected water revealed the presence of a pesticide used to control mosquitoes, which is most likely the cause of pollution and fish deaths.
Contributing Factors of Water Pollution
In order to prevent water pollution, it is important to become familiar with contributing factors. There are numerous sources of water pollution in the world to consider with some being more obvious than others. Some of them include:
a) Industrial Waste:
Industrial projects, plants, and other business ventures release chemical waste and byproducts that reach water sources. This may also include contaminated or heated water associated with a wide-range of industrial processes.
The release of inadequately treated or untreated sewage causes water pollution.
c) Surface Runoff:
Pesticides, detergents, and fertilizers (often containing excess nutrients) seep into the ground and find their way into water resources.
d) Farming Practices:
The “slash and burn” farming technique that involves the burning and cutting of forests or woods located close to a farm cause water pollution. This practice is usually followed in order to generate fields for agriculture and pasture for livestock. Sometimes, the process affects the type of surface runoff that contaminates a larger body or system of water.
e) Oil Spills:
Oil tankers that spring a leak while traveling across a large body of water or other sources that spill petroleum products are known to cause water pollution.
f) Construction Sites:
Contaminated surface runoff may come from the results of construction sites that produce a high amount of silt. In some cases of polluted drinking water, silt is responsible for the levels of turbidity, which causes water to become cloudy or hazy in appearance. The higher the turbidity in water, the higher the risk of contracting a gastrointestinal disease and cancer in the United States .
g) Acid Rain:
Sometimes, it is the industrial release of sulfur dioxide (often caused by the burning of fossil fuels containing high levels of sulfur) that causes the acid rain responsible for polluting water sources.
h) Underground Storage Tanks:
The leakage of underground storage tanks sometimes lead to the contamination of soil, which eventually affects water supplies. In the United States, great lengths are taken to regulate the prevention of petroleum release and the contamination of groundwater.
Plenty of organic (carbon -containing) and inorganic substances are responsible for water pollution. Some organic water pollutants include insecticides, herbicides, sewage bacteria, livestock waste, food-processing waste (including pathogens), logging waste (tree and brush debris), and the improper handling of industrial solvents. Inorganic water pollutants include heavy metals (such as acid mine drainage), power plant industrial waste (containing acid), chemical waste, agricultural waste (fertilizers), and silt.
How to Prevent Water Pollution
As there are many factors that affect the health and safety of worldwide populations and threaten the future of the environment, water pollution is a serious problem. In order to combat the severe health and safety implications that come with destroying such a precious resource, one may participate in preventing water pollution by:
a) Monitor Household-Generated Pollutants:
Some of the household protects and activities that you participate in could cause serious harm to the health and safety of local water supplies. Some pollutants, such as lawn and garden products, often enter rivers, lakes, and streams, as elements like rain, melting snow, and overwatering cause polluted runoff. As a result, water quality suffers .
b) Promote the Clean Water Act:
The Clean Water Act was created to set standards in controlling water pollution. Over the years, various laws have led to modifications in the act, but states are expected to follow government-set rules and regulations regarding the protection of the water supply used by local humans, wildlife, plants, and aquatic life .
c) Landscaping Habits:
You probably didnâ€™t know there are a few landscaping tricks that help prevent water pollution. Some individuals have replaced their high-maintenance lawn with a species of grass resistant to drought, meaning chemicals are not needed to maintain a weed-free, green lawn. To eliminate the need for pesticides, you may plant pest-resistant plants or flowers that attract beneficial bugs. When choosing plants to decorate your garden, native plants require less water, fertilizer, and pesticide use. Spreading mulch in flowerbeds also helps reduce chemical weed control and promotes water preservation.
d) Yard and Garden Products:
A well-manicured lawn, trimmed trees, and the biggest roses on the block don’t have to add to the already depressing water pollution problem. When maintaining your yard, there are plenty of ways to minimize the amount of polluted runoff on your part.
This may include selecting earth-friendly yard and garden products; hand pulling weeds; practicing insect removal by hand or with insecticidal soap; or starting a compost pile. When applying yard and garden products, it is important to avoid application when the chance of rain is high. This only causes the product to wash away with the water, making it easier to reach vital water resources.
e) Go Natural:
Lawn fertilizers made of natural materials helps to prevent water pollution. Compost or products containing bone meal are recommended. Another fertilizer choice to consider is one that contains slow-release nitrogen.
f) Pet Waste:
While the sight of pet waste is quite unattractive, as it sits in the middle of the lawn, it also adds to water pollution when it becomes part of contaminated runoff. Over time, organisms bearing disease thrive in the waste, which eventually find their way to lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands when rainwater and melted snow carry them away. When taking your pooch for a walk, you may prevent this type of water pollution by carrying around a plastic bag or pooper-scooper, and discarding any waste in the toilet.
g) Avoid Overwatering:
When it comes time to hose down the lawn and garden, it is suggested to use a slow-watering technique to prevent an increase in the leaching of fertilizers into groundwater. Instead of relying on a sprinkler, consider trickle or “drip” irrigation systems, and soaker hoses, which deliver a higher level of efficiency.
h) Motor Oil and Automotive Products:
Automotive products are prime candidates for water pollution, as motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, engine cleaner, and battery acid are spilled or dumped into the outside environment. When spills occur, acting fast helps to prevent damage, as kitty litter, sawdust, and wood chips help soak up the fluid. Also, a well-maintained car is less likely to cause pollution through a faulty engine, transmission, or brake system.
i) Recycle Hazardous Materials:
It is not uncommon for some to have an old car battery hanging around the garage or empty motor oil container tucked away. It is important to recycle or properly dispose of these types of hazardous waste items because once they come in contact with the environment; they have the potential to cause serious water pollution. You may check the Yellow Pages or local directory in order to locate area recycle and chemical waste centers.
j) Boating and Marina Concerns:
The occasional fishing trip on the boat or the sailboat tour about the marina is all sources of water pollution when small amounts of pollutants are released during use. If a marina or body of water sustains a high level of boating activity, the amount of accumulated pollutants has the potential to affect water quality. To prevent further water pollution, boaters should choose non-toxic cleaning products; recycle used motor oil; use cautious fueling practices; follow routine tune-ups to prevent fuel and lubricant leaks; and empty portable toilets and sanitation devices in the appropriate manner .
k) Properly Dispose of Household Products:
When it comes time to dispose unwanted paints, used oil, old cleaning solvents, furniture polish, pool chemicals, and other common household products, it is highly recommended to avoid discarding them down the sink, drains, or toilet. A collection of harmful substances are contained in many of these items, including sodium hypochlorite, petroleum distillates, ammonia, and formaldehyde . When they end up in nearby waters, everyone suffers. Local sanitation, public works, or the environmental health department can point you in the right direction regarding the safe removal of these products from your home.
l) Neighborhood Watch:
When you keep an eye out for potential polluters (such as hazardous waste dumping), you may contact your local organizations to file a complaint or report, which may prevent future water pollution in your area.