Water is a very important part of our lives. We use it for nearly everything – drinking, food preparation, laundry, dishes, hygiene, etc. We swim in it, boat in it, and play in it. In fact, 70% of our world is covered in water. However, 97% of that water is saltwater and we are unable to drink it, leaving only three percent of the planet’s water drinkable. But two percent of the world’s freshwater is frozen in glaciers and ice caps. Only one percent of this freshwater can be used and consumed. Therefore, it is especially important to care for the very limited amount of freshwater we have.
Unfortunately, we take advantage of this precious resource. We make choices that have a negative impact on water and the creatures that live in and near water. This negative impact is called water pollution. Ningthoujam Sandhyarani wrote that , “Water pollution is an undesirable change in the water contaminated with harmful substances. ” (Sandhyarani, n. d. ) It is one of the most major forms of pollution, second only to air pollution. Every year, 1. 2 trillion gallons of polluted water are discarded into United States waters and once water is polluted, it is complicated and difficult to extract the pollutants from the water.
There are three main sources of contaminants that cause water pollution. These are industrial, domestic, and agricultural sources. Industrial pollutants can be traced back to manufacturing and processing plants. They can consist of chemicals and organic waste. Many large-scale industries have created their own methods of treating their wastewater. But smaller industries do not always have the means to properly care for their waste, leading to industrial water pollution. It is both expensive and laborious to properly treat and dispose of wastewater from industrial sources.
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Domestic wastewater is produced by our daily household tasks. It is composed of organic materials, including food and human waste, and inorganic materials, such as detergents, soaps, and the chemicals we use for cleaning. Domestic waste contains phosphates and nitrates that, if not properly treated, can lead to eutrophication and the growth of algae. The Missouri Botanical Garden defined eutrophication as, “The process of rapid plant growth followed by increased activity by decomposers and depletion in the oxygen level. (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2006) Eutrophication leads to the suffocation of fish and other organisms living in our lakes and rivers. The third major source of water pollution is agricultural waste. This includes manure, runoff and silt, pesticides, and fertilizers. The nutrients found in agricultural waste also lead to eutrophication if this waste is not properly disposed. If we do not treat wastewater properly, our health and the health of our environment can suffer. Polluted water can cause major declines in fish and wildlife populations.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U. S. EPA), of rivers in the United States are too polluted to support the survival of aquatic life. Beaches, lakes, and rivers may be closed because of water pollution and polluted water is unsafe for drinking and cooking, as it is capable of carrying harmful diseases and infections. Abhijit Naik noted that, in a study conducted by the World Water Assessment Program, “Two million tons of human waste is disposed in water bodies every single day. ” (Naik, 2010)
Thankfully, there is much being done to try to put an end to the pollution of water. One of the first and most prominent examples is the The Clean Water Act of 1972, put into effect by the U. S. EPA: “The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating and discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters…Under the CWA, EPA has implanted pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. We have also set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters.
The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit is obtained. ” (U. S. EPA, n. d. ) However, we cannot simply rely on the rules and regulations set by others. We must also make decisions that will have a positive impact on our water. We can do this by being more mindful of how we are using water and what we are putting into it. We can also educate others and ourselves about the importance of caring for water and the ecosystems that thrive on it, because we are equally responsible for the care of our most valuable resource.
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