Water pollution is one of the greatest threats to humanity today. Pollution of water is the tainting of water bodies, typically as a result of human activity, which has a detrimental impact. Aquifers, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, seas, and groundwater are all examples of water bodies. When contaminants are introduced into these water bodies, water pollution occurs. There are two types of sources of water pollution: point sources and non-point sources. Point sources, such as storm drains, a wastewater treatment facility, or an oil spill, have a single, distinguishable cause. More widespread non-point sources include agricultural runoff.
The term “polluted” refers to water that has been contaminated by unnatural elements or toxins. Water pollution doesn’t happen in a day, the cumulative effect over time leads to pollution. The major causes of water pollution are bacteria, viruses, parasites, insecticides, pharmaceuticals, plastics, feces, radioactive materials, fertilizers, and pesticides. These compounds are commonly invisible contaminants since they do not always alter the color of the water. In other words, water pollution is basically the contamination of water. Contaminated water can’t be used for even basic activities, and can spread diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and poliomyelitis that claim the lives of more than 500,000 people globally, annually.
The following are some major causes of water pollution:
1. Industrial wastage and wastewater dumping
Each year, nearly 20% of freshwater is used in industrial works. After its use in the industry, it becomes polluted. In many cases, the responsible industry treats it carefully before releasing it back into nature, but in several areas (countries) this untreated water itself is discharged into the public water bodies. Nearly 80% of this wastewater is ejected untreated. Also, several industries use waterbodies as dumping grounds for their solid wastes too, thus causing a big part of water pollution by themselves.
This introduction of industrial waste and wastewater in waterbodies has explicitly hazardous results. Most of these substances from industries are not biodegradable and they accumulate in water sediments. They block the natural path of creatures in the water and also, they lessen the BOD by much, as a result, fishes and other inhabitants of the water bodies die and biodiversity endures great losses.
The wastewaters that contain antibiotics, hormones, cytostatic drugs, and solubilizers are much more dangerous than others. Because, sometimes polluted water and the contaminants from sediments get mixed up with groundwater through cracks in the ground, thus polluting the drinking water, and if these wastes get mixed up with the drinking water that’ll wreak havoc in human society.
2. The effect of sewage
Direct sewage or sewage leakage from sewers plays a significant role in water pollution. The wastewater of sewers often contains laundry wastes, feces, toilets, and urine, as there are billions of people in this world the amount of sewage is quite large and that is also why proper sewage treatment should be a priority.
In developing countries, sewage disposal is a big issue because many people do not have proper access to sanitary conditions which creates the problem of water being directly used in its source as a sanitary cleaner and thus gets polluted. Also, when people flush chemical and pharmaceutical wastes that get mixed up with sewage water, these elements do not get eliminated in the treatment facilities even as they are not biodegradable and thus create havoc of pollution.
If the sewer systems are not maintained properly, it is often seen to have cracks and leaks that leak harmful wastewater straight underground where it can easily contaminate groundwater/ drinking water.
3. The effect of mining activities
If proper care is not taken in cases of mining large quantities of various chemicals can contaminate the water. In the case of mining, the chemicals like arsenic, sulfur, and mercury are often in high concentration, thus having great chances of contaminating the water. Huge quantities of water are used in various processes in the mine, like mine cooling, mine drainage, aqueous extraction, and many others. These processes are to be watched very keenly and excess or run-off water from these processes is to be dumped only if they are properly treated and should ensure there are no contaminants present.
But, sadly in many mines such care is not taken and, in haste, to complete the mining process untreated water is released in copious amounts, affecting the surrounding areas and many more. Submarine Tailings disposal is the best option for dumping these wastes and keeping an eye on the usage and release of water in the mining facilities along with the mine’s connection with groundwater is very important.
4. Large quantities of marine dumping
Industrial waste and sewage are among the main pollutants that are dumped in the sea, besides polluting groundwater, they also contribute to Marine pollution. Another source of marine dumps are natural calamities, whenever there are some natural calamities like flood or heavy rain, or tsunami, in the aftermath debris and trash find their way toward large water bodies. These kinds of ‘garbage dumping’ are considered to be one leading reason for marine pollution.
The toxins and the plastic products that come with garbage are not only harmful to marine life but they also affect human life. If the fish are contaminated with toxins and later, they are consumed, that can cause serious health problems. Plastic and plastic products choke sea creatures, sea animals think of plastic bags as food and when they try to consume them it results in their death. Garbage dumping also depletes the oxygen in seawater, resulting in poor health and the death of marine life.
5. Accidental oil leakages
Accidental oil leakage is a significant environmental concern as it causes water pollution. The main source of oil spills is the cargo ships, they discharge crude oil and other harmful objects in the sea both accidentally and deliberately. When oil is released into water bodies like oceans, rivers, or lakes, it has detrimental effects on the marine ecosystem. This release creates a layer of oil on seawater and the toxins of crude oil get mixed in water, too.
The oil spill is very dangerous for marine life and coral reef. Oil clogs the gills of fish, causing their death. The oil layer above the water is impenetrable to sunlight, without the sunlight underwater plants cannot complete their photosynthesis process, thus the underwater plants of that are effectively killed. The toxic components of oil can also penetrate the food chain, leading to long-term harm and even death for many species.
6. Effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides
Chemical fertilizers and pesticides have been widely used in agriculture to grow higher-quality crops, but they are also hazardous because they cause massive decline of water quality in rivers and other waterbodies, when runoff from fields enters into nearby streams and rivers. Phosphates and nitrates found in chemical fertilizers and pesticides have the potential to be the primary contributors to water pollution. Also, the crops that are irrigated from these contaminated waterbodies carry chemical strains that may be dangerous for human consumption.
Groundwater typically absorbs lawn and garden pesticides primarily through runoff and the leaching process, the quality of ground and drinking water declines, which has negative consequences on crops and aquaculture. The drinking water is also contaminated by the concentration of nitrogen in these fertilizers. Some pesticides can be toxic to aquatic life. When pesticides enter water bodies, they can directly harm fish, amphibians, and other aquatic organisms.
7. Global warming
We have significantly increased the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere since the start of the industrial age in the late 1700s. This is the primary reason behind Global warming. Climate changes result from global warming. Droughts, strong downpours, and rising water temperatures are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change. This may affect the quality of the water we use for drinking and other various reasons.
In these altered circumstances, bacteria and viruses flourish, both in air and water and can spread a variety of diseases when they come into touch with people.
When climatic change persists, precipitation occurs. Additionally, as a result of this, some areas, like the Midwest, have seen alternating patterns of floods and drought. The earth’s capacity to absorb water is decreased by drought. When precipitation manifests as hurricanes or storms with greater intensity, flooding happens and water quality decreases as a result.