Water Pollution

July 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Water Pollution

Water pollution – how it is caused and what we can do to safeguard our valuable resource…

Water pollution occurs when toxic substances are washed into our oceans, rivers, streams and lakes from pipework or groundwater deposits. These toxins are dissolved and are either suspended in the water or lying on the bottom. The deterioration in our water quality effects these fragile aquatic eco systems, killing off nutrients and creating un-needed environmental issues.

Discharge into our rivers from sewage works or industrial waste is the largest pollutant sources. In India for instance, only about ten percent of waste water is treated properly with the rest flowing directly into rivers and other waterways causing pollution which is highly contaminated and full of microbes which can cause serious disease.

Run-off from fields used for agriculture is another huge contributing factor to water pollution as fertilizers, pesticides, iron and other chemicals are washed into our waterways. Domestic sewage is also difficult to treat and contains bacteria, organisms and microbes that can also cause serious illness. Although the amounts are very small in proportion to other contaminants, by volume, this ‘sanitary sewage’ is huge and creates large amounts of rotting impurities, vegetable and food waste, washing powders, soaps and the like, which create a significant problem in the treatment of this waste water.

The chemicals contained in all the rubbish we dump into our waterways – plastic bottles, tin cans, and household products including those of household cleaners and detergents contain a large amount of harmful synthetic chemicals including phosphates for water softening which have a detrimental effect on all aquatic life. Nitrates are also common in our ‘groundwater’ where chemical fertilizers used in agriculture ‘leech’ into our water systems.

Types of water pollution…

There are two groups of water pollutants – ‘point source’ and ‘non-point source’. The former is attributed to storm drains, pipes and ditches etc which allow contaminants to enter our water in a ‘discrete’ way. Sewage plants and factory discharge are included in this category. You can find a more comprehensive definition of ‘Point Source Water Pollution’ within the US CWA (Clean Water Act) which regulates and enforces a strict code of conduct.

NPS or ‘Non-Point Source’ water pollution covers mainly run-off situations from agricultural fields, highways and roads, construction sites, parking lots and any other ‘non-discrete’ contamination although water flowing from these sources into storm drains would still be classed as Point Source pollution.

Water pollution and the effects on our communities…

Devastation to our environment is a good place to start. Human health and aquatic life are both seriously effected and polluted water cannot be used for drinking, for industry, agriculture or any recreational use. By simply managing and looking after our water and the way that we create waste, we can minimize the amount of water polluting material released into our systems and add some valuable protection to our delicate gift of life.

Removing any dangerous substance before there is a chance of re-introduction into our waterways is paramount. Water treatment facilities in the United States for instance are governed by strict legislation governing the amounts of contaminants that can be discharged. You only have to switch on the news to see the effects of water pollution on our environment!

By simply thinking about what we do and abiding by the regulations in place, we can prevent problems and can protect and save our water from pollution. Most of us would drink to that!