What are the main causes of water pollution?

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Ultimately, it is human activities that dictate how much pollution enters the water. From industrial waste to deforestation, or pesticides used in agricultural fields, human behavior is altering the state of our planet.

There are many different human activities that result in the increase of water pollution. Some examples of activities that lead to water pollution include:

1. Sewage Leakage & Overflows 

The likelihood of leakages occurring throughout sewage and pipe systems is very high as a result of poor infrastructure and leakage from transport. Such leakages may result in water and soil pollution (as well as contamination).

In the United States alone, there are tens of thousands of sewage overflows that occur each year. These overflows directly pollute water systems and oceans, resulting, in some cases, in severe human and animal illnesses.

Furthermore, a study conducted by Climate Central revealed: “In addition to pathogens and bacteria, inadequately treated sewage can impact the health of an aquatic ecosystem by depleting the available oxygen and creating an imbalance of nutrients for organisms living in the contaminated environment.”

Other examples of leakages include those that occur as a result of landfill and nuclear plant spillages. Landfill overflows often result in soil and land pollution while nuclear leakages have been known to result in radioactive and contaminated water.

2. Industrial Activities 

Industrial activities often cause harmful chemicals to enter into water supply systems.

Activities such as the burning of fossil-fuels and/or mining often release harmful chemicals into both oceans and water systems. The chemicals that arise from these activities mix with rain water, often finding their way past water-waste treatment centres.

According to Safe Water, “In the United States, the amount of hazardous waste generated by manufacturing industries in the country has increased from an estimated 4.5 million tons annually after World War II to some 57 million tons by 1975. By 1990, this total had shot up to approximately 265 million tons.”

Some of examples of pollutants that arise as a result of industrial activities include: 

– Lead 

A metallic substance that may cause both environmental and adverse human health issues. 

– Asbestos 

This pollutant is carcinogenic and may lead to serious health problems.

– Phosphates

Phosphates arise as a result of toxic fertilisers and may lead to eutrophication. According to Water Pollution (.org), “eutrophication is when the environment becomes enriched with nutrients. This can be a problem in marine habitats such as lakes as it can cause algal blooms.”

– Petrochemicals 

Arise as a result of petrol and gas pollution 

3. Agriculture 

Both livestock and crop farming often lead to water pollution. Both livestock feces and farming chemicals end up being washed into water systems, resulting in diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

Livestock waste containing antibiotics may lead to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria in water systems. These antibiotics cause harm to much of the marine life that subsequently ingest these antibiotics, resulting in immunities and other adverse health effects.  

Livestock production now accounts for up to 70% of all agricultural land, highlighting the steep challenge ahead if livestock production is to ever become more environmentally sustainable.

According to The Food And Agriculture Organization, “Agriculture, which accounts for 70 percent of water withdrawals worldwide, plays a major role in water pollution. Farms discharge large quantities of agrochemicals, organic matter, drug residues, sediments and saline drainage into water bodies.”

Sulfate from manure also results in water quality damage as well as polluting water system networks. Like many other chemicals that derive from manure pollution, sulfate damages water and marine organism life. Rain is a perfect source of transportation for harmful chemicals to travel from one area to another. 

What are the main consequences of water pollution?

The extinction of marine ecosystems and marine biodiversity are two major consequences that may arise as a result of water pollution. 

Water pollution also poses a threat to human health via the contraction of illnesses that can arise as a result of contaminated water.

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