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Causes and consequences of water pollution

Fresh water is a basic resource for life, probably the main natural resource, and its scarcity has a lot to do with its waste and pollution for different reasons. Likewise, if we take into account the extreme events that climate change brings, we will find another reason why the world suffers and will suffer from a significant lack of water.

In this case, it will be due to the droughts that lie ahead as well as the desertification processes that the advance of global warming entails, with what either due to its contamination, use and abuse, or because it is a scarce good, water. sweet is a priority resource.

On the other hand, the pollution of seas and oceans constitutes another of the great concerns of the 21st century. Both due to the health problems caused by the imbalance of the marine ecosystem, a source of food, as well as the environmental impact caused by said pollution, the seas are in an increasingly worse state. Keep reading AgroCorrn to know in detail the causes and consequences of water pollution .

You may also be interested in: Marine pollution: causes and consequences

What is water pollution: definition

To begin, we want to clarify that the definition of water pollution can be summarized as any change at a physical, biological or chemical level in the water that causes its quality to decrease and that is harmful to any living being that consumes it.

Thus, this natural resource, once damaged by pollutants, is no longer useful for living beings , including human beings, and for countless activities (from living or swimming in it and drinking it, to using it to irrigate vegetation or wash food) .

Indeed, to better understand the problems related to water pollution it is essential to address its main causes, the various types of pollution , as well as to point out some measures to reduce this tremendous problem. Not in vain, without quality water it is impossible to guarantee the environmental balance, of the human species, animals and plants.

Contaminated water is that whose “composition has been modified so that it does not meet the conditions for its use in its natural state”, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Or, what is the same, pollution is the introduction of pollutants into a given ecosystem.

Types of water pollution

We can mention two types of water or aquatic pollution :

  • Organic contamination: due to pathogenic microorganisms in the water that arrive through gray water, industrial or agricultural waste.
  • Pollution with artificial chemicals: this is generated from the aforementioned pesticides to human and animal medicines or even any type of domestic and industrial waste.

Causes of water pollution: pollutants and sources

Here we talk about the main causes of aquatic pollution , both natural and derived from human activity, as well as the main pollutants, agents or sources of pollution.

Natural causes of water pollution

With regard to natural causes, we can cite the increase in temperatures , being able to consider as such only the part that belongs to the natural process of the planet and not accelerated global warming , as is well known, it has an anthropogenic origin, that is, derived of human actions.

Pollution related to its natural cycle can be due to contact with certain pollutants that can be from mineral or organic substances that exist in nature, for example in the earth’s crust, the atmosphere or the water itself. Sometimes it is introduced by rare natural phenomena, such as floods or landslides, let’s say, and it is in doing so that contamination occurs.

Human Causes of Water Pollution

The most important and harmful pollution is that produced by human beings for different causes, including the discharge of toxic substances dumped into the water on a regular or occasional basis, as is the case with industrial discharges into water . This is how water is accumulatively polluted.

Pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hydrocarbons, wastewater , detergents, plastics and other solid waste end up in rivers and seas, where in addition to their environmental impact, after being ingested by small marine organisms they end up entering the food chain .

Not forgetting, likewise, that the pollution of rivers also increases marine pollution, in addition to underground leaks contaminated by toxic discharges of any kind.

Sources and agents of water pollution

In summary, the polluting agents or sources of aquatic pollution are:

  • Pathogenic microorganisms.
  • Sewage water.
  • Heavy metals.
  • Pesticides
  • Hydrocarbons.
  • Radioactivity
  • Emerging pollutants.

As we have already clarified, some have their origin or source in the natural environment and others from humans.
We recommend that you expand this information with this other AgroCorrn article on What are the pollutants in water .

Effects and consequences of water pollution: a health hazard

We continue to talk about water pollution around the world, going into detail about the effects and consequences of water pollution on health:

  • As we move forward, water pollution can end up on our plate. When eating fish and shellfish from contaminated water, there is the bioaccumulative effect of mercury and other heavy metals and also of small plastic particles, known as microplastics . However, this also occurs in the ingestion of non-potable water.
  • Arsenic water pollution in India and other parts of the world, for example, causes serious health problems . Likewise, bathing in the Ganges River is dangerous for health, because in addition to being able to swallow polluted water, which contains substances that are harmful in itself, this is a vector of diseases, from simple gastric problems to much more serious conditions, whether caused by viruses or bacteria.
  • Access only to contaminated water also implies a lower quality of life . Not having access to drinking water and having to walk several hours each day to fetch water, even though it is not really clean, does not allow families or societies in general to progress. This is something that happens mainly in many places in Africa and Asia.
  • The crops irrigated with contaminated water , on the other hand, also can pose a health risk. In fact, watering with polluted water means contaminating food. Among these cases, the presence of arsenic in rice from India is known, more common than we think.
  • In the same farms, on the other hand, unhealthy conditions can occur that affect the product. Without being able to guarantee, far from it, that wild fish are healthy, since we have pointed out that the sea can also be polluted, fish farms are not in a better situation in many cases. They must control the type of water and maintenance very well. Otherwise, production will doubtfully meet a set of minimum health requirements. In this way, whether we buy food from the open sea or from fish farms, we may end up eating pollution. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure as much as possible that the regulations are complied with in these places.

Effects and consequences of water pollution: its environmental impact

Water is an essential element not only for human life, but for life in general. As it is an essential element for it, its pollution is a serious blow to living beings. These are the effects and consequences of water pollution on the environment or, in other words, its environmental impact:

  • From the possible health consequences of contaminated water, it is easier to understand how much it can unbalance ecosystems , including the specific problems it poses for fauna and flora.
  • There is a destruction of vegetation and animals that inhabit the seas. Not only the fish and other beings that inhabit the water suffer these devastating effects, but also the seabirds suffer this contamination of the waters, decimating their food or being poisoned or trapped to death.
  • Preserving fish or corals, for example, means stopping acidifying the sea as a result of climate change. Therefore, indirectly, the aquatic ecosystem can also be affected. It is not a spill, but the same role as a carbon sink that the ocean performs, with this dramatic result.
  • Lastly, noise pollution is another major problem, the environmental consequences of which can be dramatic for many species.

Gone are those times when it was considered that the sea allowed everything due to its immensity and depth. Logically, this is not the case and the consequences of dumping garbage and chemicals in huge quantities have not been slow to become apparent . Its degradation in recent centuries has taken a particular toll on coastal areas, at the same rate that industrial discharges and runoff from intensive agriculture and urbanization have increased. Without forgetting the environmental disasters caused by oil leaks, both in the sea and in the rivers.

Water pollution: solutions

If pollution is not important, ecosystems have the ability to clean themselves and regain their balance, the problem escapes the control of nature when it reaches a point of no return.

The collapse occurs when pollutants unbalance the system without the possibility of it absorbing said pollution. In these cases, it is necessary to act, although in many cases they are problems of such magnitude that solving them is simply a utopia.

At least, that’s the way it is today when the problems refer to issues as tricky as plastic pollution in seas, chemical pollution in rivers or, for example, oil spills in both seas and rivers.

In this sense, it is important to carry out actions that improve the situation in order to minimize its environmental impact, as well as the threat it represents to public health, even if they cannot offer ideal results.

In many cases, for example, purification or other purifying treatments do not carry out a total decontamination, but it is also true that its need will depend on the use that is going to be given to the water. But, above all, prevention is essential, both from a legal and awareness-raising point of view and through technologies that allow truly effective actions to be carried out .

Here you can learn more about the proposals for Solutions to water pollution .

How to avoid water pollution

After reading this information, you may be wondering what the solutions are for water pollution . These are some ideas both to solve the current problem and to prevent it from occurring more :

  • Minimize the use of pesticides and other chemical contaminants.
  • Reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Stop the abusive use of plastics and educate for its correct management.
  • Treat wastewater as much as possible.
  • Stop uncontrolled deforestation.
  • Ensure that industry, livestock and agriculture do not spend such exorbitant amounts of this natural resource.
  • Use sustainable or totally eco-firendly transportation.
  • Actively participate with organizations and associations dedicated to this. A great example of progress in this field is the Ocean Cleanup project , designed to clean the oceans.
  • Help improve the laws in this regard.
  • Help in the education and awareness of the population about this global environmental problem.

In this other article we show you more about How to avoid water pollution , to try not to continue adding more to the existing one.

Plastic Water Pollution Data – 2021

Here is a series of data on water pollution collected in 2018, the most recent being in 2021. Most of these data have been extracted from the study carried out by scientists Mason, SA, Welch, VG, and Neratko, J., in 2018 and published in Frontiers in chemistry under the title Synthetic polymer contamination in bottled water [1] , since plastics are one of the biggest problems today .

  • Currently 5 large plastic islands are known in the oceans. Here we explain more about what plastic islands are and how they are formed .
  • In the aforementioned study, bottled drinking water was tested on a total of 259 bottles purchased around the world and from different brands. In 93% of these there was contamination by microplastics, which when drinking this water we ingested and damaged our body.
  • The types of plastics most found in water, even in microparticles, are from higher to lower quantity: PP (polypropylene), PS (polystyrene), PE (polyethylene), PLAGO (polyester and polyethylene terephthalate), copolymers, polyacrylates and azlon .
  • In this image we can see a graph, obtained in this study, which shows the microplastic density averaged in individual bottles and batches by brand. Specifically, it is indicated in the document that the blue bars are confirmed particle densities NR + FTIR (> 100 um), the oranges for particles marked with NR “(6.5–100 um) and the error bars (black line) are a standard deviation, necessary for this type of study.

More images of water pollution around the world

To end this article on water pollution , we leave below more photos of water pollution that clearly show the great environmental problem that we all suffer.

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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