Water Pollution

Water is the catalyst that made all life on Earth possible. In fact, the human body is comprised of approximately 60% water. Without our water resources, life on Earth as we know it would be an impossibility. So, if we owe so much to our water resources, why are we polluting them?

Water pollution occurs in a couple different ways. The most obvious is probably the direct pollution that occurs when waste is discarded into the ocean, whether intentionally or by accident. Storm drains regularly carry trash and debris from surface streets into the open sea. Air pollution is also closely related to water pollution. Precipitation can become contaminated by pollutants in the air before it finds its way back down to the surface waters. So, water pollution can essentially be divided into two types: Point sources and non-point sources. A point source is an instance where pollutants are directly introduced into the water supply. The example of waste being discarded into the ocean would be considered a point source, especially in cases like oil spills. Non-point sources are more indirect, naturally occurring sources of pollution, such as fertilizer carried into a stream due to rainfall.

When fertilizer is conveyed through waters systems in excess, it can over stimulate the growth of algae and other aquatic plants, potentially causing clogs and obstructions of light to the deeper waters below. They also use up large portions of dissolved oxygen as they are decomposing. Low levels of dissolved oxygen can severely impact the ecosystem, as fish depend on it to maintain respiratory function.

Pathogens are another dangerous form of pollutant often facilitated by untreated sewage. Bacteria, protozoan and viruses are all different types of bacteria considered to be pathogens. Exposure to these pathogens may result in varying symptoms such as minor respiratory and skin diseases to more serious problems like typhoid or dysentery.

Accidents do happen, and unfortunately sometimes accidents entail spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean. It is important to note that oil spillage is not just confined to these accidents, but oil is routinely spilled in smaller amounts into the ocean as it is being transported. Oil spills tend to gain significant amounts of attention to the loss of many marine animals and birds that are claimed by the accidents. There is also water pollution in the form of radioactive substances that are produced by nuclear power plants. In the past, military ships with nuclear reactors on board have been sunk, and some of them still lay on the ocean floor, emitting more or less unknown levels of toxic radiation.

Worldwide, about 1.5% billion people do not have access to adequate drinking water. Here in the United States, about 53% of the national population depends on ground water for drinking. Although the country’s water supply overall has tested rather well, there have still been several instances of contamination. This is why it is in everyone’s best interest to make their own personal contribution to reducing water pollution.