11:32 am - Monday May 28, 2012

Water Pollution

When toxic substances enter lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, and other water bodies, they get dissolved or lie suspended in water or get deposited on the bed. This results in the pollution of water whereby the quality of the water deteriorates, affecting aquatic ecosystems. Pollutants can also seep down and affect the groundwater deposits.

Water pollution has many sources. The most polluting of them are the city sewage and industrial waste discharged into the rivers. The facilities to treat waste water are not adequate in any city in India. Presently, only about 10% of the waste water generated is treated; the rest is discharged as it is into our water bodies. Due to this, pollutants enter groundwater, rivers, and other water bodies. Such water, which ultimately ends up in our households, is often highly contaminated and carries disease-causing microbes. Agricultural run-off, or the water from the fields that drains into rivers, is another major water pollutant as it contains fertilizers and pesticides.

water pollution

Effects of Water Pollution

The effects of water pollution are varied and depend on what chemicals are dumped and in what locations. Boston Harbor is a strong example of how badly pollution can damage bodies of water.  The water is filled with toxic waste and sewage, and routinely receives more waste when rainfall pushes it into the harbor. Many bodies of water near urban areas are highly polluted.  This is the result of both garbage dumped by individuals and dangerous chemicals legally or illegally dumped by industries. The main problem caused by water pollution is that it kills life that inhabits water-based ecosystems.  Dead fish, birds, dolphins, and many other animals often wind up on beaches, killed by pollutants in their habitat. Pollution disrupts the natural food chain as well.  Pollutants such as lead and cadmium are eaten by tiny animals.  Later, these animals are consumed by fish and shellfish, and the food chain continues to be disrupted at all higher levels. Eventually, humans are affected by this process as well.  People can get diseases such as hepatitis by eating seafood that has been poisoned. Ecosystems can be severely changed or destroyed by water pollution.  Many areas are now being affected by careless human pollution, and this pollution is coming back to hurt humans.

Causes of Water Pollution

The causes of water pollution vary and may be both natural and anthropogenic. However, the most common causes of water pollution are the anthropogenic ones including:

Agriculture runoff - carrying fertilizers, pesticides/insecticides/herbicides and other pollutants into water bodies such as lakes, rivers, ponds). The usual effect of this type of pollution consists in algae growing in affected water bodies. This is a sign of increased nitrates and phosphates in water that could be harmful for human health.

Storm water runoff – carrying various oils, petroleum products and other contaminants from urban and rural areas (ditches). These usually forms sheens on the water surface.

Leaking sewer lines – may add trihalomethanes (such as chloroform) as well as other contaminants into groundwater ending up contaminating surface water, too. Discharges of chlorinated solvents from Dry Cleaners to sewer lines are also a recognized source of water pollution with these persistent and harmful solvents.

Mining activities – mining activities involve crushing the rock that usually contains many trace metals and sulfides. The left material may easily generate sulfuric acid in the presence of precipitation water. Please, read more at Mining Sites.

Foundries – have direct emissions of metals (including Hg, Pb, Mn, Fe, Cr and other metals) and other particulate matter into the air. Please, read more at Foundry.

Industrial discharges – may add significant pollution to water bodies, but are usually regulated today. Please, read more at Industrial Sites.

Accidental leaks and spills – associated with handling and storage of chemicals may happen anytime and, although they are usually contained soon after they occur, the risk of polluting surface and groundwater exist. An example are ship accidents such as Exxon Valdez disaster which spilled large amounts of petroleum products into the ocean;

Sources of Water Pollution

There are many causes for water pollution but two general categories exist: direct and indirect contaminant sources.

  • Direct sources include effluent outfalls from factories, refineries, waste treatment plants etc.. that emit fluids of varying quality directly into urban water supplies. In the United States and other countries, these practices are regulated, although this doesn’t mean that pollutants can’t be found in these waters.
  • Indirect sources include contaminants that enter the water supply from soils/groundwater systems and from the atmosphere via rain water. Soils and groundwaters contain the residue of human agricultural practices (fertilizers, pesticides, etc..) and improperly disposed of industrial wastes. Atmospheric contaminants are also derived from human practices (such as gaseous emissions from automobiles, factories and even bakeries).

Contaminants can be broadly classified into organic, inorganic, radioactive and acid/base. Examples from each class and their potential sources are too numerous to discuss here.

Solutions of Water Pollution

These days water pollution is considered as the main problem on earth. The chief source which has contributed to the water pollution is human beings. The sweet water in the form of rivers and ponds are so polluted that it has come to the level of extinction. water pollutants are of different types but mostly four contributors are agriculture, natural, industrial pollutants and municipal. The natural water pollutants can include earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, which leaves an unbalance oceanic floor causing flash floods. Even global warming has also some contribution to the water pollution. As a water pollution solution, human beings cannot do anything about the volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, but can do little about global warming. However, some scientist says that global warming is an irreversible damage.

Poultry waste and other animal waste can be considered as the major cause of water pollution. These wastes can be called agricultural pollutants. Animal wastes and other wastes related to agriculture are disposed in the nearby stream of water. Even farmers dispose pesticides and fertilizers use in the crops are disposed in the rivers and fresh water streams. Water pollution solution in case of the agricultural pollutants can be easily reached with some strong steps. In case of agricultural pollutants mass propaganda about the proper disposal of waste should be conducted.

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