Water is one of the basic needs of the human being. We use it to quench our thirst, give energy to our body, and wash our clothes, dishes, and other parts of our home. Without water, we will die.
As years passed, the population began to grow and bodies of water become polluted. Water pollution occurs when huge bodies of water like the groundwater, oceans, rivers, and lakes are contaminated with harmful chemicals and bacteria. This is due to the waste product directly thrown into the water.
Indeed, water pollution is one of the major crisis that the world faces today and it affects millions of people who don’t have access to clean drinking water. The government spends time and effort to focus on water pollution and its effects to protect the people.
We need water to survive and to do that, we have to make several measures to save some of the resources that we have today.
Thus, in this article, we will discuss the causes and effects of water pollution and some of the doable solutions we can start immediately.
Causes of Water Pollution
Rapid Urban Development
Through the years, we have witnessed the exodus of people in the towns and cities. People began to build houses, roads, and big industries. Thereafter, there is a physical disturbance of the land and factories began to dump their chemical wastes in the bodies of water.
Big factories flush down waste products in the water and this is one of the major causes of ocean pollution.
On the other hand, ordinary people also causes water pollution and not just big factories. Everyone is guilty of pouring chemicals or detergents in their drains or toilets. This toxic pollution can enter the wastewater from highway runoff.
The highway runoff is usually covered with toxic chemicals such as spilled fuel, chemical additives, brake fluids, and exhaust emissions. When the rain pours, these chemicals are washed in the drains and into the rivers.
With this, school of fishes can get killed overnight. According to studies, the highway runoff in one year is equivalent to an oil tanker spill. Some highway runoffs come into the drains and it can pollute the groundwater or accumulate in the land near the road. Thus, it becomes increasingly toxic year by year.
Improper Sewage Disposal
Nowadays, the disposal of sewage waste is becoming a major issue due to the growing population of the world. Its improper disposal can lead to several water-related diseases that can kill adults and children.
Sewage disposal problem does not end easily. As soon as you flush the toilet, the waste has to go somewhere and even if it leaves the sewage treatment, there are still waste needed to dispose of. Thus, sewage waste is dumped into the oceans.
In theory, sewage contains a natural substance which can be broken down by the environment easily. In fact, 90% of sewage contains water. However, in practice, sewage contains all other types of chemicals such as paper, plastic, and pharmaceutical products that they flush in the toilet.
Also, when people are sick, they carry viruses with them. Thus, the sewage they produce carries those viruses and spread in the ocean. Nowadays, it is possible to catch typhoid, hepatitis, and cholera from the ocean and river.
Use of Toxic Chemicals for the Plants
Also, farmers have used harmful fertilizers to produce more and cope up with the demands of the growing population. This results in an algal bloom in the water. When the oxygen level of the water increases, it can also cause the extinction of underwater plants as well as the fishes.
Dumping of Chemical Wastes by Big Factories
Detergents are one of the chemicals dumped in the ocean. On the other hand, the Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are highly toxic substances and its traces are found to be discharged into the environment today.
Other toxic pollution that is found in the water is caused by chemicals such as mercury, cadmium, and lead.
Lead is used in gasoline or petrol but it has been restricted in some counties. Meanwhile, cadmium and mercury are still used in batteries. Recently, a chemical named as Tributyltin (TBT) was also found in the affected bodies of water.
In 1938, a Japanese factory discharged a huge amount of mercury metal in Minamata Bay. This heavy metal water pollution contaminated the fish stocks and it took almost ten years for the problem to come to the attention of the authorities.
By that time, locals have already consumed the fishes and about 2,000 residents were poisoned. More than 100 of people become disabled and got killed.
Discharge of Radioactive Wastes
High concentrations of radioactive waste can cause great alarm to the public. It can cause illness such as cancer which can ultimately cause the death of a person.
In Europe, the biggest source of radioactive pollution is Sellafield and Cap La Hague. These companies discharge radioactive waste in the ocean which the currents carry around the world.
Norway has been receiving significant doses of the radioactive pollution from Sellafield and the government has been repeatedly complaining about the company. Both the Norwegian and the Irish government has been continuously pushing for the closure of the plant for years.
According to studies, 12% of the oil that enters the ocean is due to tanker accidents while 70% of it comes from people pouring down oil on the land and routine shipping.
However, tanker oil spills are destructive since it releases large amounts of oil at once. In the United States, one of the biggest oil spills is in 1989 when the tanker Exxon Valdez broke up in Prince William Sound in Alaska.
During this incident, around 12 million gallons of oil were dumped in the ocean. With this, about 1000 to 2,000 sea otters and 250,000 seabirds were affected. Also, billions of salmons and herring eggs are destroyed due to the oil spill.
Throwing of Plastics in the Ocean
Plastics are one of the most common materials that can easily get washed away by the waves.
Today, plastic is used in almost any kind of manufactured object from the clothes we wear, home items, and automobile parts. It is lightweight and it floats easily. However, plastics are non-biodegradable and it can affect the survival of the marine life for a very long time.
Some people may say that plastics are not as poisonous as other chemicals but they also present danger to the fishes, seabirds, and other marine animals.
For example, plastic fishing line and other waste materials can choke and strangle a fish. Also, about half of the population of the world’s seabirds have eaten plastic and experts have found residues on their stomachs.
Introduction of Alien Species in the Marine Environment
Water pollution can be caused by alien or invasive species that are introduced into a new system which they do not belong. When they are outside of their normal environment, they don’t have natural predators. As such, they can run rapidly in the wild and crowd the usual plants or animals that live in the place.
For example, the zebra mussels in the Great Lakes of the United States are carried by the wastewater flushed from the ships in Europe. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean Sea has been attacked by alien algae while the Black Sea it is an alien jellyfish.
Other Forms of Pollution
Some forms of pollution include thermal pollution coming from the power plants or factories which causes issues in the rivers. With the rising temperature in the water, it can reduce the amount of oxygen present in the water and decrease the level of aquatic life that the river can support.
Also, the disruption of sediments or the fine-grained powders that moves from the rivers into the sea must also be considered. The water dams that are built as water reservoirs or to produce hydroelectric power can reduce the sediment flow. With this, the formation of beaches and flow of nutrients are reduced while the coastal erosion is increased.
Meanwhile, increased sediments can be a problem too. During construction work, rock, soil, and fine powders can enter rivers in large quantities and make it turbid, silted, or muddy. The additional sediment can block the gills of several fishes and suffocate them. Thus, construction firms nowadays are spending their efforts to prevent this thing to happen.
The Effects of Water Pollution
Water pollution can cause the death of the animals found in the water. It can kill various types of animals such as the whales, dolphins, fishes, and even the birds. If an animal gets killed, all other animals will be affected and the system will be disrupted.
It can affect us humans by acquiring various diseases. People can get hepatitis from eating seafood that has been affected by polluted water. Also, cholera is a common issue due to contaminated water and it has killed many people in all parts of the world.
Indeed, water pollution is gradually destroying the balance of the ecosystem. This is the fault of the people because the majority of the bodies of water are now polluted and its rehabilitation can take for many years.
Preventions and Solutions to Water Pollution
One can easily do his part in preventing water pollution today. One of the main things to do is to never throw garbage in the sea. You can do this by minimizing your waste material and by recycling things that you can still put to good use.
Here are some ways that you can do to prevent water pollution:
- Plant trees or any plants near bodies of water so that when it rains, the topsoil with personal chemicals will not get washed away. Big trees will help prevent soil erosion. When the soil is eroded, the pesticides and chemicals on the land will be washed away and carried on the sea. But if there are big trees to stop the eroding of the soil, the oceans will be protected.
- In maintaining your lawn, do not use pesticides or any fertilizers. You can prevent highway runoff by simply avoiding pesticides.
- If you wish to use cleaning liquids, be sure that these are environmentally safe.
- It is not also advised to put oil or any type of chemicals in the toilet or sink since this may end up in the groundwater.
- Be responsible for the amount of water that you use every day. If you just watch how much water you use, you will be surprised that you can save a huge amount of money on your bill. For example, when you brush your teeth, use a cup instead of allowing it to flow endlessly.
- When cooking your food, do not throw excess fat or oil down in the drain. Drain your dirty dishes in the container and discard it as a solid waste once it is full and it dries.
- Do not make your toilet as your wastebasket. Do not flush unnecessary things in the toilet because this will only clog up your drains. It is unsustainable and it will only lead to massive pollution in the end.
- Switch to the use of a water-efficient toilet in your home. If you think this is costly, you can use a brick or a ½ gallon container to reduce the amount of water released in each flush and be able to reduce the space. With this, you can save water which is being unnecessarily flushed down the toilet.
- If you are a farmer, allow your animals to graze only when it is a well-vegetated pasture to prevent soil erosion. If you have a garden at home, avoid the use of pesticides to make your plants grow.
- Always keep your vehicles in good condition to avoid oil spills in the water.
- Avoid using plastics if possible especially when dining. Say no to straws, plastic cups, and plastic utensils when you dine and get out in the beach.
- Do your part by picking up some litter that you see in the environment. Pick up those candy wrapper, plastic, and others. With this, you can also lead as a good example and encourage others to also do their part.
- Some people flush down the unused pharmaceutical drugs down the drains until it accumulates into massive amounts. You can prevent this incident to happen by dropping off the unused medicines at a drug drop-off which is usually organized by the government and other organizations.
In sum, water pollution has been one of the major issues of the countries around the world. Water is essential in our lives and we cannot just ignore the fact that the world’s source of clean water is depleting.
The government spends billions to rehabilitate bodies of water and save their people from disasters.
Water pollution is caused by all citizens, whether those are small-scale unto huge oil spills and waste disposals by big factories. Everything that we do will ultimately cause the destruction of the bodies of water, from disposing plastics in the sea, flushing of drugs in the toilet, or using pesticides for the plants in our garden.
However, we still have time to prove our worth in this planet and save mother earth from destruction. We must change our lifestyle and live simple. Go green and save the water.