The Earth’s surface includes 70% of water and 30% of land. As the planet’s population has been rapidly on the rise in the last few decades, the water resources are being exhausted fast. Oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes are eradicated by anthropogenic activities to the extent that they deteriorate the level of their quality, thus causing pollution. The latter is a human-made issue that has emerged as a result of the Industrial Revolution during the 19th century. The world never took pollution as a serious concern until the population of the planet has grown to almost 7.5 billion, an aspect which proves that there are lines that should not be crossed, and the humanity is exhausting the earth’s resources too fast.
What Is Water Pollution?
Water pollution may be described as the entry of poisonous entities into oceans, seas, lakes, rivers along with other waterbodies via anthropogenic activities. In other words, toxic elements amass in the water to the extent that cause harm to animals and people who consume it (Calhoun, 2014). Notably, the waterbodies are able to clear a particular quantity of impurities by cautiously spreading it; however, as the degradation becomes more severe, they lose this capacity, thereby deteriorating water quality. At the same time, pollution leads to adverse repercussions for marine life and aquatic ecosystems concerning functions and populace.
Also known as the surface waters, the oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes are the major sources of water on the Earth (Liu, 2012). The examples of pollution that affect them include oil spills which results in creation of a “slick” that will can vast areas. Not all water sits on the surface, whereas some of it is underground (groundwater) in the rock structures referred to as aquifers (Liu, 2012). They provide most of the water consumed by people. However, one may also degrade the groundwater, for example, by herbicides draining into the garden grounds. Even this phenomenon is not as common as the surface water pollution, it still remains to be a problem. A study that was conducted in 1996 in Iowa in the U.S. made a finding that weed killers had contaminated the groundwater wells of the state (Sulphey, 2014). The groundwater and surface waters are sources of water that are affected by pollution. Contamination from a single location like a discharge hose from a manufacturing plant is called point-source pollution. Other examples include a discharge from a plant smoke shaft, an oil spill from a tanker, or pouring oil from a pipe. Many of the H2O contaminations do not crop up from an individual origin but occur from many diverse, scattered sources, and it is referred to as nonpoint-source pollution.
Much of the pollution that happens in the water is from outside sources and not from within itself. Close to 80% of the sea pollution is introduced into the oceans from the land. Close to all human activities can affect the nature of the water environment. The chemical that is used by farmers to fertilize the fields are slowly washed into the groundwater or surface waters that are close to them by the rains. Water pollution can be puzzling at times as chemicals from chimneys mixes with the atmosphere and falls back to the universe as rain which directly enters the rivers, lakes, and seas causing the pollution of water to occur and this are referred to as atmospheric deposition (Goel, 2013). Because the contamination of water has many and different causes it becomes rather difficult to find a solution to it. Some of the causes are explained below.
Disposing of wastewater affects the immediate environment of people which results in illnesses related to water like diarrhea which is responsible for the death of 525,000 children below the age of five annually (Goel, 2013). Developed countries have flush toilets in their homes, offices and other public areas that hygienically take away the sewage, but it does not end there. When waste is flushed down the bathroom, it goes into wastewater treatment works, but there is still some residue that remains to dispose of. The remaining waste that is untreated is pumped into the sea. Sewage is known to contain all kinds of chemicals which range from plastics, pharmaceuticals drugs that are taken by people, and much more other wastes people flush down the toilets. The sewage also carries viruses from individuals who are sick into the environment. People can catch illnesses like cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis from sea water and rivers.
When sewage is properly treated as well as being used in small quantities, it can be utilized as manure to give essential nutrients to the environment like phosphorus and nitrogen that is needed by animals and plants for growth. The main problem is that when the sewer is released, it is usually in higher amplitudes which the natural surroundings cannot control. The chemical manures used by farmers also contribute to the problem as they are washed into the rivers and oceans increasing to the already fertilizing reaction of the sewer. The combination of the fertilizers and waste can result in the massive production of algae or plankton that devastating oceans, lakes, and rivers and it is referred to as harmful algal bloom (Goel, 2013). The harmful algal bloom eliminates oxygen from the water resulting in the death of all life leading to a dead zone.
Detergents usually are gentle substance but at the end of the opposite spectrum are highly poisonous chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls. In the past, it was utilized in the manufacturing of electronic circuit boards, but they have become highly restricted in many of the countries because of their harmful effects. In the 20th century, PCBs weighing half million tons were released into the environment, and its traces were even found in Arctic fish and birds. They spread through oceans, thousands of miles from their source (Goel, 2013). The impact of PCBs will be felt for a long time as they last longer in the environment before they break down. Heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, asbestos, sulfur, and lead are also toxic pollutants that cause environmental and health problems to humans and animals as well as eutrophication which is very problematic for marine life and environment.
The impact of contamination in water can be disastrous at times which depend on the type of chemical, its concentration, and where they are polluted. It can result in the death of aquatic animals like crabs, fish, birds and seagulls, dolphins, and much more which when killed by pollutants end up on beaches (McKeown, 2015). Pollution also disorganizes the natural food web. For instance, contaminants like lead and cadmium can be consumed by the small animals which then get eaten by shellfish and fish after which the food web continues to be disturbed. Humans as well are affected by this process as they become vulnerable to illnesses like hepatitis from consuming seafood that is contaminated while most of the underdeveloped nations, outbreaks of cholera and illness have become familiar as a result of poor drinking water because of the contamination. The ecosystem is also being destroyed severely by the water pollution. Oil spills that wash up near beaches can seriously affect tourism which will result in a negative impact on the economy (McKeown, 2015).
The transboundary nature of water pollution stands as one of the biggest problems it poses as many of the rivers go through different countries, while the oceans span in the continents. If pollution is released from factories in a nation that has environmental standards that are poor, it causes havoc for the bordering countries even though their laws and high standards are tough. Putting in place environmental laws will make it challenging and tough for people to degrade, but for them to work, they must be applied across local and global borders. For instance, oceans are governed by legislations like the MARPOL International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships of 1978, the London (Dumping) Convention of 1972, and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 that was signed by over 120 nations (Dernbach, 2012). The European Union has protection laws for water that are referred to as directives that all the states that have membership must follow. One of the guidelines is the 1976 Bathing Water Directive that aims at ensuring that the waters are of good quality are used for recreation by people. Individual countries as well have also enacted water pollution laws like the 1972 Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act that are from the United States (Dernbach, 2012).
Water pollution has been found to have many forms all of which have dire consequences be it oil pollution which is rather silent but very deadly or the chemical pollution that has persistent organic pollutants. Some of the repercussions are also considered as further pollutants like Eutrophication and Acid Mine Drainage. They effectively choke out the water that they pollute and are capable of causing devastation to an entire ecosystem that is centered on a water supply. The hard truth about pollution is that it is overwhelmingly a product of human activities of consumption and laziness like oil pollution is caused mainly by the improper drainage of the day to day activity of people. Chemical pollution that includes PCBs is as a result of the desire to create excellent pesticides and the ever-growing demand for more electricity. Countries and continents should pass more stringent laws to making it harder for pollution to occur, and the world will be cleaner. If people all work together, pollution will become gradually decrease, allowing the planet to become a better place.
Calhoun, Y. (2014). Water pollution. Infobase Publishing.
Dernbach, J. C. (2012). Environmental laws and their enforcement. EOLSS Publications.
Goel, P. K. (2013). Water pollution: Causes, effects, and control. New Age International.
Liu, D. H. (2012). Groundwater and surface water pollution. CRC Press.
McKeown, A. E. (2015). The impact of water pollution on human health and environmental sustainability. IGI Global.
Sulphey, M. M. (2014). Introduction to environment management. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd.