What are some examples of water pollution?

In this article we discuss some examples of water pollution. We also discuss various methods for reducing water pollution.

What is water pollution?

When dangerous substances—often chemicals or microorganisms—contaminate a stream, river, lake, ocean, aquifer, or other body of water, the water quality deteriorates and the water becomes toxic to humans or the environment.

Water is very susceptible to contamination. Water, sometimes known as a “universal solvent,” can dissolve more chemicals than any other liquid on the planet. 

We have Kool-Aid and vivid blue waterfalls because of it. It’s also the reason why water is so readily contaminated. Toxic compounds from farms, cities, and factories easily dissolve and combine with it, polluting the water.

What are some examples of water pollution?

There are a lot of examples of water pollution. However, we shall discuss some of the major examples, which include:

  • Faulty agricultural practices
  • Sewage and wastewater
  • Oil pollution
  • Radioactive pollution
  • Plastic pollution

We shall discuss these in more detail.

Faulty agricultural practices

The agricultural industry is not only the world’s largest user of freshwater resources, with farming and animal production absorbing over 70% of the planet’s surface water supplies, but it is also a major polluter.

Agriculture is the biggest cause of water pollution all over the world. Agricultural pollution is the leading cause of contamination in rivers and streams in many parts of the world.

It also contributes significantly to the pollution of estuaries and groundwater. Fertilisers, pesticides, and animal manure from farms and livestock operations wash nutrients and pathogens—such as germs and viruses—into our rivers every time it rains.

Nutrient pollution, which is produced by an excess of nitrogen and phosphorus in water or the air, is the leading source of algal blooms, a poisonous soup of blue-green algae that may be dangerous to humans and wildlife.

Sewage and wastewater

Wastewater is the water that has been used. It originates from commercial, industrial, and agricultural activity, as well as our sinks, showers, and toilets (think sewage) (think metals, solvents, and toxic sludge). 

Rainfall brings road salts, oil, grease, chemicals, and debris from impermeable surfaces into our rivers, which is referred to as stormwater runoff.

According to the United Nations, more than 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged into the environment without being treated or reused; in certain developing nations, the percentage is as high as 95%. 

Wastewater treatment plants in the United States treat around 34 billion gallons of wastewater every day. 

Before dumping the treated waters back into rivers, these facilities minimise the quantity of contaminants such as pathogens, phosphorus, and nitrogen in sewage, as well as heavy metals and harmful compounds in industrial waste. 

When everything goes well, that is. Our nation’s old and easily overburdened sewage treatment facilities, however, are estimated to spew more than 850 billion gallons of untreated wastewater each year, according to EPA estimates.

Oil pollution

Although large spills make the news, customers are responsible for the great majority of oil pollution in our oceans, including oil and gasoline that leaks from millions of automobiles and trucks every day.

Furthermore, approximately half of the estimated 1 million tonnes of oil that enters marine habitats each year originates from land-based sources such as industries, farms, and towns, rather than from tanker disasters.

Tanker spills account for roughly 10% of the oil in the world’s waterways, while the maritime industry’s routine operations—both legal and criminal discharges—contribute about one-third.

Oil is also naturally discharged from under the ocean’s surface through seeps, which are fissures in the seafloor.

Radioactive pollution

Any pollutant that emits radiation in excess of that normally emitted by the environment is classified as radioactive waste. 

Uranium mining, nuclear power plants, military weapon manufacture and testing, as well as colleges and hospitals that employ radioactive materials for study and medicine, all produce it. 

Radioactive waste may last thousands of years in the environment, making disposal a serious concern. 

Consider the cleaning of 56 million gallons of radioactive waste at the decommissioned Hanford nuclear weapons manufacturing site in Washington, which is anticipated to cost more than $100 billion and take until 2060.

Contaminants that have been discharged accidentally or inadequately disposed of pose a hazard to groundwater, surface water, and marine resources.

Plastic pollution

Every year, at least 14 million tonnes of plastic wind up in the ocean. Plastic waste is the most common sort of litter in the ocean, accounting for 80 percent of all marine debris discovered from the surface to deep sea sediments. Every continent’s shorelines are littered with plastic, with more rubbish found around famous tourist attractions and heavily populated places.

Urban and stormwater runoff, sewage overflows, littering, insufficient waste disposal and management, industrial activity, tyre abrasion, construction, and illegal dumping are the primary causes of plastic debris detected in the ocean. Plastic pollution in the ocean is mostly caused by the fishing industry, naval operations, and aquaculture.

Plastic degrades into small particles called microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) or nanoplastics (particles smaller than 100 nm) due to UV radiation from the sun, wind, currents, and other natural forces.

The small size makes them easy for marine life to ingest accidentally.

How to reduce water pollution?

The following ways are helpful in reducing water pollution:

  • Wastewater treatment
  • Plastic waste reduction
  • Water conservation
  • Stormwater management
  • Green agriculture

We shall discuss these in brief.

Wastewater treatment

Treatment of part of the water before it is restored into the waterways is likely the most efficient technique to prevent water pollution.

Because wastewater treatment facilities can remove virtually all contaminants in wastewater using a chemical, physical, or biological method, this is a very successful approach. 

Sewage will be pumped through the facility’s several chambers to gradually lower its toxicity. It is critical that wastewater treatment facilities stay in good working order so that they can perform as planned.

There are a variety of water treatment sensors available to ensure that toxins are effectively removed from the water before it is discharged back into the environment.

These sensors include pH sensors, conductivity sensors, and oxidation reduction potential sensors.

Plastic waste conservation

Plastics are frequently washed into the ocean and other bodies of water, further degrading the water’s cleanliness. 

Every year, an estimated 9-12 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean, a figure that must be drastically decreased to prevent the ocean’s water quality from deteriorating even more.

Plastic is utilised in a variety of goods that individuals use on a daily basis, including everything from garments to other objects around the home, in addition to water bottles. 

It is advised that you avoid using plastics wherever possible to help limit the quantity of plastic garbage that enters the environment. Plastic bottles, cutlery, and straws should all be replaced with alternatives. 

Whenever you make use of plastic, make sure that you recycle.

Water conservation

It’s critical to focus on water conservation wherever feasible if you want to do your part to keep water clean and pure while also protecting the environment.

On a daily basis, there are several strategies to preserve water. It’s best to keep the water switched off if you’re shaving or brushing your teeth.

If you take a shower every day, choose shorter showers that aren’t longer than necessary. You may alternatively take a bath, which uses far less water.

If your landscaping includes a garden, make sure to just utilise the quantity of water that your plants require. Water is a scarce resource, which is why it’s important that you try to lessen your water usage when you can.

Stormwater management

When practicable, managing stormwater is another excellent approach for conserving the environment and decreasing water pollution.

Stormwater gathers up dangerous contaminants when it travels along sidewalks, roadways, and lawns, which are subsequently forced into storm drains, streams, and rivers.

Stormwater may be treated and controlled using a number of methods, including sand filtration and electrocoagulation, as well as reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation.

Stormwater and the pollution it contains must be managed since this water will ultimately reach rivers, streams, and seas, worsening contamination in these bodies of water.

Stormwater management should assist to alleviate this problem and limit the quantity of pollutants that reaches the sea.

Green agriculture

For everything from cattle production to farming, the agricultural industry consumes up to 70% of the world’s surface water supply. Agriculture, unfortunately, is the principal source of water contamination. 

Pesticides and fertilisers wash away with rainwater when it rains, bringing viruses and bacteria into the rivers. Agriculture, on the other hand, might be more environmentally beneficial.

Consider planting trees and other plants near bodies of water to encourage the use of green agriculture by preventing pesticides from being carried away when it rains. Pesticides containing hazardous compounds should also be avoided.

Conclusion

When dangerous substances—often chemicals or microorganisms—contaminate a stream, river, lake, ocean, aquifer, or other body of water, the water quality deteriorates and the water becomes toxic to humans or the environment.

This is known as water pollution. Water bodies can be polluted by natural processes, but in the current scenario, it is dominated due to anthropogenic activities.

Some of the best known examples of water pollution are agricultural runoff, sewage and wastewater pollution, oil pollution, radioactive pollution, and plastic pollution.

In order to reduce water pollution, methods such as wastewater treatment, plastic waste conservation, green agricultural practices, stormwater management, and other such activities are crucial.

FAQs

How does water pollution affect human life?

To put it clearly, contamination of water kills. According to research published in The Lancet in 2015, it was responsible for 1.8 million fatalities. Water that has been contaminated might also make you sick.

Every year, nearly 1 billion people become ill as a result of contaminated water. Low-income groups are particularly vulnerable since their dwellings are frequently located near polluting enterprises.

Disease-causing bacteria and viruses from human and animal waste are a primary source of sickness from polluted drinking water. Cholera, giardia, and typhoid are among the diseases carried by contaminated water.

Accidental or unauthorised discharges from sewage treatment plants, as well as runoff from farms and urban areas, can contribute hazardous germs to waterways, even in rich countries.

How does climate change affect water pollution?

In many areas, increased water temperatures will cause eutrophication and excess algal growth, which will reduce drinking water quality. The quality of drinking water sources may also be compromised by increased sediment or nutrient inputs due to extreme storm events.

References

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