Water pollution refers to a situation where the water contains one or more built-up substances in it such that it can be harmful to people or animals. For instance, if a certain amount of ink enters a river from an ink factory every five seconds, the ink will eventually reach levels that are harmful to people, animals, and plants. In water pollution, both the quantity of the water and the quantity of the polluting substance matter. A small amount of pollutants in large amounts of water will not pollute the water significantly, but a relatively large amount of pollutants in a small amount of water will pollute the water causing harm to plants, people, and animals. It is therefore vital that water is protected from potential pollution. This paper is an in-depth analysis of the types of water pollution, causes of water pollution, effects of water pollution, and ways through which water pollution can be prevented.
Types of water pollution
Water pollution is mainly classified into two categories. These include point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution. The former is the type of pollution in which the pollutant comes from one place. For instance, if a pipe for discarding a factory’s waste pollutes a lake, the lake can be said to be affected by point source pollution. Another example of point source pollution is a case where a water body is polluted by a tanker’s oil spill. On the other hand, nonpoint source pollution occurs when pollution occurs because of many pollutants from various sources, or from a single pollutant coming from scattered sources. Point source pollution normally affects the water around the source more than the water that is far from the source. This phenomenon is rare with nonpoint source pollution because the latter has various sources of pollutants, meaning that the water is polluted in various places simultaneously.
Causes of water pollution
Usually, water pollution does not occur inside the water. Sometimes water pollution can be quite surprising. For instance, when factory chimneys pollute the atmosphere with chemicals, rain dissolves these chemicals and consequently, they are carried by rainwater into rivers, seas and lakes, polluting them. This is referred to as atmospheric deposition, which is one of the main causes of water pollution.
With the world’s population growing each day, the disposal of human waste has become a major problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 40% of the people living in this planet lack proper sanitation facilities. “Sewage disposal affects people’s immediate environments and leads to water-related illnesses such as diarrhea that kills 3-4 million children each year” (Woodford 1). On the contrary, “In developed countries, most people have flush toilets that take sewage waste quickly and hygienically away from their homes” (Woodford 1). It is however important to note that the waste goes somewhere and it eventually has to be treated. After treatment, some waste has to be disposed of. Sometimes this sewage or sewage-treatment waste finds itself into water bodies like the sea or lakes, polluting them (Rubin). Actually, wastewater and sewage are the leading causes of water pollution. Wastewater, especially from factories, has been a major concern for governments as well as non-governmental organizations dealing with environmental conservation. Fertilizers as well as pesticides have also been a notorious source of water pollution. Fertilizers particularly increase the nutritious value of the water because when sewage combines with these fertilizers, they support the growth of plankton and algae (Skye), which pollute lakes and seas.
Waste materials from nuclear power plants lead to pollution of water with radioactive waste. Such waste can potentially kill people or make them develop cancers depending on the concentration. Britain has particularly been notorious for disposing radioactive waste into the ocean, which affects downstream countries like Norway.
Another significant source of water pollution is oil. When people dispose oil in drains on land, this waste is washed into the ocean during the rainy season, thereby contaminating the sea. Tanker spills also release significant amounts of oil into the sea, which accounts for approximately 10% of the ocean’s oil pollution. Such oil spills and other forms of water pollution with oil are responsible for the death of millions of sea creatures (Skye).
Being one of the most popular materials, plastic is responsible for polluting virtually every sphere of planet earth. Every now and then, plastic materials wash up to the beaches of the sea with ocean waves. Plastics cannot be easily broken down. This means that once they pollute the marine environment, they can stay there for decades. Despite the fact that plastics are not as poisonous as other pollutants, they are a threat to marine life. They can potentially suffocate fish, or pollute the bodies of sea animals leading to health effects on people because they consume fish and other sea creatures (“Causes and Effects of Water Pollution” par. 3). Additionally, plastics leave traces in fish that consume them and thus they can make people develop cancer with time after consuming such fish.
Effects of water pollution
The effects of water pollution are far-reaching and therefore they cannot be exhausted. Some of the effects of water pollution include devastation of marine ecosystems including death of marine life, which in turn leads to effects on the economic welfare of the country in which the water is. Such effects on economic welfare may be because of activities related to marine life such as fishing, tourism and so forth. Additionally, water pollution can lead to health problems for the human population (Woodford). For instance, sewage pollution can cause water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and so forth. Additionally, radioactive pollution can lead to cancers and even death. People who consume poisoned shellfish can develop paralytic shellfish poisoning, which is sometimes fatal.
From the discussion above, it is evident that water pollution is a serious problem affecting the contemporary society. Water pollution is classified into point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution. Quite a number of natural phenomena and human activities cause water pollution and thus it is a challenging problem. Some of the causes of water pollution include radioactive material, oil, sewage, plastics and soil fertilizers. These pollutants have devastating effects on people, plants and animals. Some can cause fatal diseases in people, while others can potentially kill people on exposure. Others like oil spills kill millions of creatures living in the sea. Such effects have secondary effects on the human population because the death of sea life from an oil spill implies that people will not be able to get sufficient fish from the sea. Additionally, polluted coastlines are unlikely to attract tourists and thus pollution of water has negative effects on economies.
Causes and Effects of Water Pollution 2013. Web.
Rubin, Ken n.d. Sources of Water Pollution. n.d. Web.
Skye, Jared n.d. Effects of Water Pollution. n.d. Web.
Woodford, Chris 2013. Water Pollution: an introduction. 2013. Web.