We explain what is water pollution, what are its pollutants and causes. Consequences and solutions to avoid it.
What is water pollution?
Contamination of the water or water pollution occurs when in natural bodies of water (lakes, rivers, seas , etc.) are present various types of substances chemical beyond its original composition , which modify its properties making unhealthy, harmful to life , and therefore useless for fishing, agriculture , recreation and human consumption.
Water is the most abundant liquid substance on the planet and the universal solvent present in most substances and in all living beings , which without it could not exist. Life itself originated in the seas of our planet.
However, that has not prevented numerous human activities from generating an important impact on the water quality of the planet, by disposing of liquid, solid and even gaseous substances in the environment . And although there are also natural processes and human initiatives that seek to counteract water pollution , it is much easier to dirty it than to make it drinkable.
According to many international organizations, the amount of drinking water available in the world predicts future shortages crisis . According to the UN , 3.1% of people who die annually on the planet do so due to consumption of contaminated water, which is equivalent to 2.2 million people.
What are the water contaminants?
The main water pollutants are:
- Wastewater . Product of urban consumption (sewage), industrial processes or other everyday human uses.
- Garbage and solid waste . As waste materials, metals , plastics , glass, objects that fall from ships, etc.
- Chemical and agrotoxic products . The chemicals used for the agricultural industry, to treat soils or for other specific uses, are often washed by rain and run into the seas or groundwater.
- Sediments and minerals . Like volcanic ash, sediments and soil or construction particles , such as dust, lime, etc.
- Radioactive materials . Resulting from nuclear plants, they are extremely toxic elements that are stored in lead containers and are often thrown into the ocean as they have no better place to dispose of them.
Causes of the contamination of the water
As we have seen, the main (if not the vast majority) of the causes of water pollution come from the way of life of human beings and, especially, from the way we consume natural resources and have by-products and waste from our activities.
Since the Industrial Revolution and the exponential growth of the world population during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the needs of water, energy and raw materials of humanity has only increased. And the contamination of water, air and land is a direct consequence.
Consequences of water pollution
The main consequences of water pollution can be:
- Biological imbalances . The presence of certain chemicals in the water can cause the abnormal proliferation of certain microbes or algae, which unbalances the trophic chain and generates abnormal competencies that, in the long run, cause the excessive death of certain species that will decompose by adding organic matter to the Water.
- Chemical alterations . Changes in water chemistry can reach lethal extremes, in which local fauna and flora become extinct or migrate to other areas, causing severe ecological damage.
- Climate impact . Changes in temperature, pH and other water properties due to added substances or suspended solids affect the behavior of the masses of the liquid, decreasing its evaporation and therefore its precipitation and altering the local climate.
- Ground and air pollution . Water pollution does not only remain in the water, but spreads towards the earth and the air , according to the water cycle, in a domino effect of unpredictable consequences.
How to avoid water pollution?
To avoid or reduce water pollution, just be aware of it and ensure its most cost-effective, efficient and responsible use. This happens by:
- Urban and industrial policies more responsible . Forcing the correct disposal of the by-products of the industry and of the sewage, mitigating the impact that these wastes inflict on the sea and the lakes.
- Consumer awareness campaigns . The waste of drinking water is a daily reality, ranging from the tap that is open while lathering our hands, to the drinking water that we splurge “cleaning” the sidewalk.
- Recycling culture . The decrease of solid waste that will give, in one way or another, water or sanitary landfills in contact with groundwater, can occur through recycling and more responsible consumption.
Solutions for water pollution
Contaminated water often has a solution. There are processes of purification and cleaning such as:
- Methods of bacteriological control and biological control of water.
- Wastewater treatments and reuse before returning them to the sea.
- Filtering mechanisms of various kinds.
- Also fight air and land pollution.