We explain what water pollution is, its origin, and its causes. Also, its consequences and possible solutions.
What is water pollution?
The contamination of the water or water contamination is the presence of chemicals, toxic or microorganisms in the water, altering its natural properties and unusable again, that is not fit for consumption or to house life, and can affect the soil and other waterways.
The toxic components of contaminated water can be diverse: microbes, heavy metals , sediments, bacteria , organic waste, radioactive substances or industrial fluids with chemical substances. The toxic components reach the water, both by the direct discharge of waste into the water and by the contamination of the soils that end up depositing the polluting substances in the underground layers.
Depending on the type and degree of contamination, that is, on the density of certain pollutants that may be present in the water, it can be treated and purified through component separation processes , such as precipitation, filtration and disinfection of impurities. .
Sometimes some water sources that used to be highly contaminated, after being treated and recovered, returned to host animal and plant life (although they are not suitable for human consumption), in addition to ceasing to be a risk to soils and other tributaries of nearby water.
Origin of water pollution
Water pollution dates from very old times of urban development, especially from the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, which was highlighted by the use of new technologies for mass production.
The large-scale manufacturing model fueled the indiscriminate use of natural resources, the overproduction of goods, and untold amounts of garbage. This model has been maintained in an increasingly accelerated way, until today.
The advance of a large-scale production system, without the prudent use of natural resources and without the adequate treatment of garbage and waste, caused the environmental collapse that is evident today that, among other consequences, caused pollution. of the water.
Causes of the contamination of the water
The main causes of water pollution are:
- The deforestation indiscriminate. The soil and vegetation fulfill the function of draining the water that comes from rain or floods . The plants help contain the water so that it does not destroy the ground and the different layers of the soil filter the water in a slow and natural way. Once it reaches the underground water tables, the pure water nourishes the soils. Indiscriminate logging leaves soils unprotected, becoming infertile and unable to properly filter water.
- Garbage and sewage. The cities concentrated high levels of environmental pollution , both the floor of the airlike water. By means of technological advances, it is possible to extract water from underground waters, which is suitable for consumption, or from natural water courses, except in areas of large cities and surroundings where excessive contamination of the soil, which comes from industries , sewer drains, unprocessed waste and garbage, ends up impacting the quality of the water. Population growth tends to be faster than public awareness and the implementation of adequate legislation to control industries, which aggravates the level of pollution generated by life in society.
- Agricultural and livestock activities. The agriculture and livestock industries imply an excessive use of drinking water, which is a limited natural resource, and contribute to soil degradation. Intensive agriculture uses large amounts of chemical fertilizers that affect soils and groundwater, causing irreversible damage. Intensive livestock farming requires large amounts of drinking water , for example: about 20,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of meat. In addition, it generates inordinate amounts of organic waste as a consequence of the large populations of overcrowded animals and their remains that are dumped into waterways and cannot be processed naturally.
- Indiscriminate fishing. The fishing industry is one of the causes of ocean pollution , both due to the amount of plastics produced by massive fishing nets and tools, as well as the indiscriminate killing of animals that end up destabilizing aquatic ecosystems . Fishing vessels employ net systems that are capable of catching a large number of marine animals, not just those they intend to hunt. This activity carried out with increasing intensity and less control, over a long period of time, causes irreversible damage such as the extinction of animal species.
- Oil exploitation. The contamination of water by oil is caused by accidental spills during its extraction that ends up destroying the life of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem, with the aggravation of its residual effect for many years. In addition, there is a risk of contamination due to spills during transportation and the production of derivatives, such as the conversion to compressed natural gas that pollutes the air, and due to contamination of the final product destined for the massive use of fuels for transportation and industrial machinery.
Consequences of water pollution
Contaminated water generates negative consequences for ecosystems and, in many cases, the damage is irreversible. Water is an essential natural resource for the life of all living beings on the planet, animals, and plants.
The shortage of drinking water, due to the exploitation of this natural resource by industries and the negligence of humans added to the growing pollution, is affecting more and more animal species, human and non-human, who do not have access to this key resource for life.
Among the main consequences of contaminated water are:
- Increase in poverty and deterioration of the quality of life in human societies due to the lack of drinking water, an essential resource for food hygiene and health.
- Increase in toxic foods that come from contaminated sources, such as fishing, livestock and agriculture, which can harm people's health.
- Increase in people suffering from diseases from ingesting contaminated water , such as cholera, botulism or hepatitis A.
- Deterioration of biodiversity due to damage to soils that become infertile and are not suitable for the vegetation that serves as food for various animal species. In addition, toxic water harms plants and animals and all aquatic life whose ecosystem is increasingly polluted. Most of the damage is irreversible, such as the destruction of an ecosystem or the extinction of entire species.
Solutions to water pollution
Despite the irreversible consequences, there is still much to be done to stop polluting the water and reverse some of the damage. Some possible solutions that help to stop polluting the water are:
- Reduce the use of chemical fertilizers for monocultures.
- Treat and purify wastewater so that it is not toxic to the rest of the waterways or the soil.
- Limit the use of plastics , especially single-use plastics , and recycle them whenever possible.
- Reduce the consumption of animals and derivatives, in addition to promoting the consumption of agro-ecological vegetables, without pesticides.
- Reduce the excessive consumption of material goods that are not necessary or that are presented in a disposable packaging full of various plastics.
- Raise awareness about the proper use of natural resources , from the importance of obtaining them to the impact after consumption of the final product manufactured with those natural resources.
- Raise awareness about the difference between garbage and recyclable waste , in addition to incorporating the habit of composting.
- Intensify the pertinent legislation for the care of resources and, especially, for the adequate treatment of waste in order to avoid contamination.
- Propose and implement new production and consumption strategies that are more environmentally friendly.
- To measure that each action of each person generates an impact on the planet. If negative actions can be reduced and positive actions increased, improvement will be achieved.
MA student of the TransAtlantic Masters program at UNC-Chapel Hill. Political Science with a focus on European Studies. Expressed ideas are open to revision. He not only covers Technical articles but also has skills in the fields of SEO, graphics, web development and coding. .